HRW sceptical of E Guinea polls

2009-11-25 22:28

Libreville - Human Rights Watch has criticised preparations for Sunday's presidential poll in Equatorial Guinea, saying there was "serious doubt" about its credibility.

"Conditions in Equatorial Guinea cast serious doubt about the credibility of the forthcoming presidential election," the New York-based HRW said in a statement.

"President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled the oil-rich west African country since seizing power in a coup in 1979, is widely expected to easily win the presidential vote scheduled for November 29 2009."

Five candidates, including Obiang Nguema, are standing for Sunday's vote in which 291 000 voters will be called to the ballot box. Campaigning is due to finish on Friday.

In the last presidential election of 2002, Obiang Nguema won with 97.1% of the vote, beating four other candidates, according to official results. He has promised to obtain a similar score next weekend.

HRW saw this pledge as a sign of Obiang Nguema's dictatorial hold over the small nation, which has since the 1990s become one of Africa's oil-rich states, though the wealth has yet to affect most of the population.

"No independent and impartial body exists in Equatorial Guinea to oversee the electoral process or consider election-related complaints, raising additional serious doubts about conditions for a genuinely free and fair vote. The National Election Commission is controlled by the ruling party and headed by Obiang's minister of the interior, a prominent member of his party," HRW said.

"Despite the government's earlier invitation to more than 100 international election observers to witness the election, it is unclear whether any independent foreign monitoring will take place. The terms and scope of the foreign observation missions have not been made public," the rights group added.

- SAPA

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