Polls open in Equatorial Guinea presidential election


Equatorial Guinea is voting today in a presidential election that is expected to return to power incumbent Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has run the small but oil-rich west African country with an iron fist since 1979.

A polling station in the economic capital Malabo opened as scheduled at 8:00 am (0700 GMT), although there were not yet many people waiting to cast their ballots, an AFP correspondent reported. Polls close at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT).

A large number of security forces have been deployed around the city since Saturday night.

One of the five presidential candidates, Carmelo Mba Bacale, quit the race on Saturday, saying he would boycott the poll because of the lack of transparency in the electoral process.

He accused the party of Obiang Nguema of having “made plans to win the election by force” by placing party members in charge of polling stations and as head of the electoral commision.

Initial results of the vote are expected on Thursday, with full results on Monday, December 7.

In the presidential poll of 2002, Obiang Nguema won with 97.1 percent of votes cast against four other candidates. Last Sunday, he vowed that he would achieve a similar score in this year’s election.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has cast doubt on the credibility of the poll, noting that in the absence of an independent and impartial body to watch over the electoral process, the vote is unlikely to be free and fair.

Equatorial Guinea is the third largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, but almost all of its population of less than a million lives in dire poverty.

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