Irregular or transparent? US and AU differ on credibility of Equatorial Guinea general elections

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  • The US has revealed claims of voter intimidation, military presence during voting and irregular counting during the general elections in Equatorial Guinea.
  • But the African Union Elections Observation Mission says the elections were transparent and non-violent.
  • Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo bagged 94.9% of the vote.

The US says there is evidence of fraud and intimidation in the general elections in central Africa's Equatorial Guinea, but the African Union's Elections Observation Mission (AUEOM) disagrees.

The reign of the world's longest-serving president, 80-year-old Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power for 43 years, was extended for a sixth term. He will be president for the next seven years.

Head of the electoral commission, Faustino Ndong Esono Eyang, announced the results on Saturday, saying that Obiang got 94.9% of the vote.

The Convergence for Social Democracy's (CSD) Andrés Esono Ondó bagged 2.31% of the vote and the Social Democratic Coalition Party's Buenaventura Monsuy Asumu received 0.68% of the vote.

In a population of 1.4 million, there were slightly more than 400 000 voters.

In the previous elections in 2016, Obiang received slightly less votes to retain the presidency, with 93.7% of the vote.

But, commenting on the 20 November polls, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: "We note, however, that international election observers, civil society groups and opposition parties have made credible allegations of significant election-related irregularities, including documented instances of fraud, intimidation, and coercion."

The allegations range from restrictions on access to polling stations for political party representatives, repeat voting, pre-filled Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) ballots, non-secret voting booths, and the presence of heavily armed soldiers within 20 metres of voting booths, Price said.

He added that in some cases, ballots were counted in the absence of opposition party representatives.

He said:

We are also concerned by irregular counting practices that favour the party in power, including the counting of unopened ballots in favour of the PDGE and the counting of ballots without all political parties represented.

"These irregularities would violate Equatoguinean law.  Given the scale of irregularities observed and the announced results giving the PDGE 94.9% of the vote, we have serious doubts about the credibility of the announced results," he said.

But the African Union Elections Observation Mission (AUEOM), which was in Equatorial Guinea, led by former president of the Republic of Guinea Bissau Jose Mario Vaz, said the run-up to the elections and the polls were peaceful.

"The ballot boxes were transparent and sealed properly. Sufficient electoral materials were available. The mission noted with satisfaction that the voting took place in a generally peaceful atmosphere in accordance with international standards and the national legal framework governing the elections," the AUEOM said in a preliminary statement after the polls.

The AUEOM did not encounter any irregularities, and found that in 99.8% instances, ballot boxes were properly sealed.

"The AUEOM did not identify any tangible irregularities throughout the electoral process of the voting by its teams during their visits to the polling stations observed," the body said.

Obiang came into power through a military coup in 1979 when he dislodged his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, the country's first president.

The News24 African Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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