Recent Elections: The government held legislative and municipal elections in May 2013. The PDGE won 98.7 percent of seats in the house of deputies and the newly created senate. The opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) party won a single seat in each chamber. The PDGE also won 98.1 percent of city council seats throughout the country. The lopsided results and weak independent monitoring of the electoral process raised suspicions of systemic fraud. The CPDS disputed the results publicly and filed a formal complaint with the National Electoral Commission, but the government did not address its objections.
Observers noted many of the same irregularities during the 2009 presidential election. The few international election observers present were able to cover only a small percentage of the polling stations. The government refused election assistance offered by the EU. Election observers noted the following irregularities at some polling stations: failure to respect the secrecy of the vote, the absence of ballots printed to enable voting for an opposition party, unsealed ballot boxes, incomplete voting result summaries, lack of posting of voting results as required by law, and ruling party propaganda around and in the polling stations. Authorities deployed soldiers to all polling stations, and there were reports that they intimidated voters.
Opposition parties questioned the legitimacy of the voter registration process, and voter registries were not made public in advance of the election. No independent and impartial body existed to oversee the electoral process or consider election-related complaints. The National Electoral Commission has the responsibility to provide for the fairness of elections and to handle postelection grievances, but the commission comprised mostly members of the ruling party, including the minister of interior, who headed the commission. The government restricted opposition parties’ access to the media and delayed the provision of constitutionally mandated campaign funding during the campaign.
Voters took three party-slate ballots into the voting booth and chose only one to deposit in the voting urn outside. The two ballots that were not used were discarded on the voting booth floor. This system required each voter to cast all of her or his votes in the municipal and legislative races for candidates of a single party. As a result there was increased pressure on voters to demonstrate loyalty to the ruling party by voting for PDGE candidates exclusively. Furthermore, this system of voting made it impossible to track all of the ballots printed in order to safeguard against multiple voting.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The PDGE ruled through a complex network of family, clan, and ethnic relationships. Public sector employees were pressured to join the PDGE. The party’s near monopoly on power, funding, and access to national media hampered the country’s three primary opposition parties--CPDS, UP, and Popular Action for Equatorial Guinea. The government subjected opposition members to arbitrary arrest and harassment.
For example, on July 11, police detained Santiago Martin Engono Esono without providing a reason. The CPDS, of which Engono Esono is a member, reported the detention was at the request of the regional governor. On July 15, following international pressure, police released Engono Esono.
Opposition members reported discrimination in hiring, job retention, and obtaining scholarships and business licenses. They also reported that government pressure on foreign companies precluded them from obtaining jobs with foreign companies. Businesses that employed citizens with ties to families, individuals, parties, or groups out of favor with the government reportedly were forced to dismiss those employees or face reprisals.
Registered opposition parties faced restrictions on freedom of speech, association, and assembly. Some political parties that existed before the 1992 law establishing procedures to register political parties remained banned, allegedly for “supporting terrorism.”
The president exercised strong powers as head of state, commander of the armed forces, head of the judiciary, and founder and head of the ruling party. In general the government restricted leadership positions in government to select members of the PDGE or from a coalition of loyal parties that campaigned and voted with the PDGE.
In 2011 the government conducted and won a referendum to alter the constitution significantly. The amended constitution concentrates power in the hands of the president and allows President Obiang, who has been in power for 35 years, to serve two more seven-year terms. (One of the amendments cancels the presidential age limit of 75 and institutes presidential term limits of two consecutive seven-year mandates, to become effective in the 2016 presidential election, when Obiang is to be 74.) Other amendments establish a senate and anticorruption tribunal court, some of whose members are appointed by the president, and a human rights ombudsman, also appointed by the president. Neither the anticorruption tribunal nor the human rights ombudsman was operational by year’s end. The amendments also create the post of vice president. Following the referendum, President Obiang created a second vice presidential position in charge of defense and national security, a position not provided for in the constitution. In a move widely viewed as a further attempt to consolidate power, Obiang appointed his eldest son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, to the post.
Participation of Women and Minorities: Women constituted 18 percent of the 100-member house of deputies and 13 percent of the 75-member senate, including its president. There were three women in the 24-member cabinet and one woman among the 19 ministers-delegate. Three of the 19 vice ministers were women, and three of 24 secretaries of state were women. The government did not overtly limit participation of minorities in politics. Nevertheless, the predominant Fang ethnic group, estimated to constitute 85 percent of the population, continued to exercise dominant political and economic power.