E Guinea ruling party expected to maintain grip as nation votes

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Malabo - Voting began on Sunday in Equatorial Guinea under tight security, with the opposition hoping to make gains in a parliamentary poll though the ruling party was widely expected to maintain its firm grip over the tiny oil-rich country.

In the capital Malabo, queues of people waiting to vote formed early as most polling stations opened on schedule, an AFP correspondent reported.

But internet access was completely blocked in a country where opposition websites have been blocked since 2013. Since the start of the election campaign on October 27, access to Facebook has been blocked too.

Across the political capital Malabo, security forces were deployed and private vehicles were banned from driving for the day.

The election is widely expected to be dominated by the party of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa's longest-serving leader, who has ruled the former Spanish colony for 37 years.

His Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) controls 99 percent of the seats in parliament, over which it has held sway since single-party rule was scrapped in 1991.

Despite the PDGE's immense power, opposition parties hope to make gains, even if they say they have no access to state media, which regularly broadcasts campaign ads by the ruling party.

Equatorial Guinea, which borders Cameroon and Gabon, is one of sub-Sahara's biggest oil producers but a large proportion of the 1.2 million population still lives in poverty.

Around 300 000 people are eligible to take part in Sunday's election, which will choose 100 MPs and 75 senators as well as the mayors of Malabo and Bata, the country's economic hub.


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