Accessibility links

Equatorial Guinea Prepares to go to polls

  • Kate Thomas

President Teodoro Obiang is expected to easily win Equatorial Guinea's presidential vote Sunday; 291,000 people are registered to vote

Voters in Equatorial Guinea are preparing to go to the polls in Sunday's presidential election.

President Teodoro Obiang is expected to easily win the presidential vote in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday. 291,000 people are registered to vote in the oil-rich central African nation.

In the last presidential election in 2002, Mr. Obiang won with 97.1 percent of the vote, beating four other candidates.

At a rally in the island capital Malabo, President Obiang said he expects more than 97 percent of the vote this time around.

Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa's leading oil-producing countries, with an annual oil revenue of $3 billion. Officially, it has a per capita income of about $50,000, but most of the population live in dire poverty.

Arvind Ganesan is a researcher for Human Rights Watch on Equatorial Guinea:

"Today the U.S. imports up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day from the country. But the state department, the IMF and others have repeatedly noted that the government of Equatorial Guinea doesn't spend enough money on its own people," he said.

Rights groups say living conditions have worsened in recent years. 20 percent of children do not reach their 5th birthday.

According to the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, Equatorial Guinea is the 12th most corrupt country in the world.

The group accuses President Obiang of using public money on fancy cars and luxury homes while most Equatorial Guineans struggle to buy food to feed their families.

A graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit, 64-year-old President Obiang owns houses in Maryland and Los Angeles, where his next-door neighbors include Britney Spears and Mel Gibson.

Though he is believed to be suffering from prostate cancer, he shows no signs of releasing his grip on the country he took from his uncle in a 1979 coup.

Again, Arvind Ganesan:

"Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea has no free press, no independent judiciary or independent society and arbitary detentions, torture and corruption are rife," he said.

In 2004, the government and international security forces blocked an attempted coup by a former British special forces officer, Simon Mann. Mann was pardoned by Obiang and released from a jail in Malabo earlier this month, after serving five years of a 34-year jail term.

Four candidates are standing against President Obiang in Sunday's vote.

Among them is Placido Minko Abogo of the Convergence for Social Democracy Party. He has accused President Obiang of taking $22 million from state funds to finance his re-election campaign.

Campaigning for Sunday's election is due to finish today.