Voting has taken place peacefully in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea for legislative and municipal elections in which the ruling party of long-time president Teodoro Obiang Nguema is expected to dominate. But as VOA's Nico Colombant reports from the capital Malabo, many citizens had other priorities on voting day.

While polling centers opened slowly, many of the capital's poorest residents focused on getting water from several city pipes they tap into under broken sidewalks.

As a military helicopter whizzed overhead, one man explained many in Malabo are suffering, and that first he needed to get water before thinking of voting.

Catholics also sang in the main cathedral of the former Spanish colony, before going out to vote in booths set up outside, some just a few dozen meters away from each other.

An affluent woman was first in line.

She said she had been waiting for this day for a long time, and that even though voting started slowly she was confident the election would be a success.

One man waiting in line said it was important to be patient in Equatorial Guinea, for voting, for democracy to develop, and also for development to reach poor areas. Equatorial Guinea is Africa's third-biggest producer of oil, but dividends have been slow to reach many slums.

President Nguema, who took power in a coup in 1979, voted with several security teams surrounding him.

He said he believed in what he called the theory of democracy in development. He said this means order, peace, and an opportunity for citizens to express their opinion on the conduct of the government.

When asked if he was confident in the ruling party's victory, he said he could not confirm it, but that it is a remarkable party that has superior campaign tactics.

These included favorable coverage on the only local television channel in Equatorial Guinea, which is run by the government.

In the outgoing parliament, the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea has all but two of 100 seats. It campaigned on a platform of guaranteeing stability and furthering economic progress. A coalition of nine parties were allied to the ruling party.

A main opposition party, the Party for Progress of Equatorial Guinea, is banned amid accusations its leaders continually plot to overthrow the government. Another party called the Popular Union split before the campaign, with some leaders boycotting the process, and calling those taking part traitors being paid by the government.

Leaders of the socialist Convergence for Social Democracy used the slogan "Combat your Fear", telling militants they should not be afraid to vote for the opposition. But they said they feared the government, which was organizing the vote would rig results in the favor of the ruling party.

Heavy morning rain slowed voting activities for a while, but the sun came out again, and voters continued to trickle through the outdoor booths under the watch of police and military stationed across the capital. The sale of alcohol was banned as was circulation of cars and taxis that did not have a special election permit.