E Guinea votes to limit presidential terms

2011-11-14 07:51
Malabo - More than 99% of Equatorial Guineans in votes counted so far have backed constitutional changes to limit presidents to serving two terms in a referendum dismissed by the opposition as a sham.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa's longest-serving leader, supports the reforms, which are seen as part of a charm offensive to clean up the image of his oil-rich state, branded one of Africa's most corrupt and autocratic.

But it is unclear whether Obiang will have to step down when his current term ends in 2016.

With 60% of votes counted, "99.04% voted yes and 0.96% no," Information Minister and government spokesperson Jeronimo Osa Osa Ecoro told AFP.

Apart from limiting presidential terms, the referendum also covered the amendment of the constitution to create a vice presidential post, with critics speculating the job could go to Obiang's 41-year-old son, Teodoro Obiang Mangue.

The first son is reviled by many for his lavish lifestyle. He is best known for his love of sports cars and champagne and his $31m home in Malibu, California.

The country's main opposition party has accused the regime of manipulating the referendum.

Opposition leader Placido Mico on Sunday pulled his agents out of polling stations citing widespread irregularities and the intimidation of his supporters.

Final results

Mico said he withdrew all representatives from his Convergence for Social Democracy party from polling stations after witnessing and hearing accounts of violations.

A young supporter of his party "was threatened with being tortured by a colonel" at a polling station in the capital Malabo, he said. Voters were facing pressure across the nation of 700 000, he added.

"There is no participation. It's not going beyond 25%. I have visited some 50 polling stations since 11:00. No one is voting" said Mico, the sole opposition lawmaker in the country's parliament.

Election officials had let unregistered people vote and voting was taking place in the open, rather than in isolated voting booths, Mico added.

"That is prohibited", he said.

Voter turnout figures were not yet available after 1 500 polling stations countrywide closed at 18:00  on Sunday. About 300 000 Equatorial Guineans were eligible to vote.

The electoral commission is due to release the final results on Wednesday.

Osa Osa Ecoro said the vote passed off peacefully and said the outcome "was a good thing for Equatorial Guinea. It is a project for the political, economic, social and cultural future. The people are delighted."

Obiang, 69, is serving his fourth seven-year term since he seized power in a 1979 coup, usurping his notoriously ruthless uncle Francisco Macias Nguema who was executed by firing squad.

Diplomatic status

In much criticised elections in 2009, Obiang received 95.37% of the vote and in 2002, 97.1%.

He organised the referendum because he "wants his country, long ignored or despised, to acquire a diplomatic status that matches its new financial weight," said a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The regime says the new constitution would also impose more checks and balances on the executive, improve the judicial system and ensure better protection of civil rights.

But opposition leader Mico criticised a lack of consultation ahead of the vote.

"No one has seen the text, not the cabinet or any official body," he said. "We are submitting a text to a referendum that no one has seen. It's an invisible text."

In the mid-1990s oil was discovered in the little-known nation. Today, it is the continent's third sub-Saharan oil producer behind Nigeria and Angola.

Obiang has in part used oil revenues to bankroll a series of infrastructure projects, including those to accommodate the 2012 Orange Africa Cup of Nations football tournament, which Equatorial Guinea will co-host with neighbouring Gabon.

Read more on:    guinea  |  west africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.