Recent elections: In the November 12 legislative and municipal elections, the PDGE and 14 coalition parties won 92 percent of the vote in the country’s closed-list party system. The PDGE and its 12 coalition parties took all 75 Senate seats and 99 out of 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. At the local level, the PDGE coalition won all except one of the municipal council seats and all except one mayoral race.
There were irregularities and nontransparency in the electoral process. The voter census and registration process was conducted without independent domestic or international monitoring. The government restricted media access to the opposition and blocked access to social media and opposition websites during the electoral campaigns. Official observer communication was restricted on the day of the elections by a shutdown of the internet. The government created an atmosphere of intimidation by deploying military personnel at polling stations. EU and diplomatic observers noted numerous irregularities at monitored polling stations.
In April 2016 President Obiang claimed 93.7 percent of the vote in presidential elections that were marred by reports of capricious application of election laws, nontransparent political funding, polling station irregularities, voter fraud, intimidation, and violence. Military personnel and PDGE representatives were present at all polling stations, while opposition representatives were present only at some stations. There were instances in which procedures to protect ballot secrecy were not enforced. Photographs of the president remained on public buildings used as polling stations.
In violation of the constitution, which requires that presidential elections be held no more than 45 days before or 60 days after the end of the prior presidential term, the election was held 136 days before the end of the president’s term.
In the months leading up to the presidential election, security forces violently dispersed opposition rallies and arrested demonstrators and opposition leaders (see section 2.b.). Some opposition political parties chose to boycott the elections in protest.
In February 2016 police detained Wenceslao Mansogo, deputy head of the CPDS party, and repeatedly detained presidential candidate Avelino Mocache, leader of the Union of Law Center.
Opposition events were shut down, and only two opposition billboards were allowed. The government and the PDGE had an absolute monopoly of national media, leaving opposition political parties with no means to disseminate their message. The PDGE received hourly radio and television coverage before and during the campaign period while opposition parties received none. The PDGE was also able to cover the city in campaign posters and gave away smart phones, promotional cloth, and even cars at campaign events.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) was not fully independent of PDGE influence. By law the NEC is composed of six judges appointed by the head of the Supreme Court, six government representatives and a secretary appointed by the president; and one representative from each registered political party. Only three of the NEC’s members were from the opposition.
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 and even to agree to have their salaries garnished to fund PDGE activities. The party’s near monopoly on power, funding, and access to national media hampered the opposition parties--the CPDS, Popular Union of Equatorial Guinea, Popular Action for Equatorial Guinea, and the CI.
For example, the PDGE conducted a national campaign with extensive media coverage in preparation for the November legislative and municipal elections. Opposition parties, however, had little to no access to media during this period, contravening the National Pact of 1993, the regulating framework for political parties that stipulates access to media and political financing and that provides for opposition political parties to have free weekly national radio and television spots.
Political parties could receive both private and public funding but were not required to disclose the amount of private funding. In advance of the 2016 presidential elections, only the PDGE received public funding, and the amount was not publicly disclosed.
The government subjected opposition members to arbitrary arrest and harassment.
Opposition members reported discrimination in hiring, job retention, and obtaining scholarships and business licenses. They also claimed the government pressured foreign companies not to hire opposition members. Businesses that employed citizens with ties to families, individuals, parties, or groups out of favor with the government reportedly were selectively forced to dismiss those employees or face reprisals.
Registered opposition parties faced restrictions on freedom of speech, association, and assembly. For example, supporters who attended opposition political party campaign rallies were singled out for police interrogation and harassment. Some political parties that existed before the 1992 law establishing procedures to register political parties remained banned, allegedly for “supporting terrorism.”
Civil servants were removed for political reasons and without due process. In 2016 both the executive and judicial branches were restructured, with party affiliation a key factor in obtaining government employment. The PDGE conducted a nationwide campaign, and government employees were required to support it to keep their positions.
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. The government generally restricted leadership positions in government to select PDGE members or members of a coalition of loyal parties that campaigned and voted with the PDGE.
Amended in 2011, the presidential age limit of 75 was removed from the constitution, but the number of terms a president may serve was limited to two seven-year terms. The constitution also established three separate branches of government and created a new post of vice president appointed by the president. As a result President Obiang, who has ruled since 1979, may serve one more seven-year term. In 2016 the president appointed his son, Teodoro Obiang Mangue, as vice president.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Male-controlled cultural influences, however, limited women’s political participation, especially in rural areas. Prior to the November elections, women occupied nine of 75 Senate seats (including that of the Senate president) and 14 of 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Three of the 25 cabinet members were women, one of the 13 delegate ministers was a woman, three of eight vice-ministers were women, and six of 37 secretaries of state were women. There were no female justices in the Supreme Court.
The government did not overtly limit minority participation in politics, but members of the Fang ethnic group occupied the top ranks. The group, estimated to constitute 80 percent of the population, exercised dominant political and economic power.