November 30, 2009 / 8:04 AM / 9 years ago

Eq Guinea incumbent Obiang wins criticised poll

MALABO (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema won 96.7 percent of the vote in the central African country’s election, according to provisional results on Monday of a poll criticised for falling short of democratic standards.

Equatorial Guinea's President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, addresses the 64th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York in this September 23, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

The figure was published on the government’s website after returns from around a quarter of voting stations.

Sunday’s election was the latest in a string of polls in Africa this year entrenching a ruling party or legitimising a military takeover amid accusations of fraud, raising concerns of a trend away from democracy on the continent.

Obiang came to power 30 years ago and is now set for a further seven-year term in which he is expected to pursue his goal of transforming the tiny country of 650,000 into a major energy producer despite mounting human rights concerns.

“Provisional results — overwhelming victory for the candidate of the PDGE (ruling party), Obiang Nguema Mbasogo,” the website said of Sunday’s election, using Obiang’s full name.

The provisional result was just short of Obiang’s 2002 score of 97.1 percent and will come as little surprise to analysts and critics who noted the lack of credible rivals, and the lack of access to the elections for foreign media.

NO SURPRISES

“The result was never in any kind of doubt,” said independent Africa risk analyst Antony Goldman.

“The president has always been fairly keen on continuity in policy, and it would be a surprise if there were any significant change in the short term.”

Turnout appeared weak, according to a witness in Malabo, with polling stations guarded by soldiers, and streets empty after a temporary ban on car travel was imposed last week.

Despite his grip on the country, Obiang has faced several threats from abroad, including a 2004 coup attempt by mercenaries led by former British special forces officer Simon Mann.

Earlier this year seaborne gunmen suspected to be militants from Nigeria’s unstable Niger Delta attacked his palace.

Obiang came to power in a 1979 palace coup and has faced growing criticism that the country’s oil wealth has not improved the lot of its citizens.

Last month, the country’s deputy mines and energy minister said Equatorial Guinea wanted to double its natural gas exports within five years, a project involving Germany’s E.ON Ruhrgas, Spain’s Union Fenosa and Portugal’s Galp Energia.

The gas initiative comes as its oil production begins to slip from peaks over 350,000 barrels per day hit earlier this decade, and the country seeks ways to diversify its economy.

“One of the potential issues over the next seven years will be how to manage a declining oil industry,” Goldman said.

Additional reporting by Daniel Magnowski; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Giles Elgood

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