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Although Mbasogo’s victory consolidates his power in the short term, it raises risks for the country in the future

The sixth reelection of Equatorial Guinea’s incumbent president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, that gives an opportunity to hold the leader post for 50 years, will obviously make him to move towards rapprochement with Russia and China. At the same time, in case of the death of the president or a military coup the absence of real political competitors threatens to destabilize the situation in the country.

Nguema has ruled the country’s authoritarian regime for 43 years. Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea is continuously having one of the worst human rights records in the world. The constitution provides Obiang sweeping powers, including the right to rule by decree, effectively turning his government into a legal dictatorship.

Since declaration of independence from Spain in 1968, Equatorial Guinea, inhabited by around 1.5 million people, has had only two presidents. Obiang ousted his uncle Francisco Macias Nguema, who was executed by a firing squad in a coup in 1979. The president has a strong grip on the oil-rich central African nation, with family members in key government roles.

Political opposition is barely tolerated and severely hampered by the lack of a free press, as all broadcast media is either owned outright by the government or controlled by its allies.

Eighty-year-old Obiang is the world’s longest-ruling head of state excluding monarchs. He has never been officially re-elected with less than 93 percent of the vote.

Electoral commission head Faustino Ndong Esono Eyang confirmed that Obiang would serve another seven years in the top job. The commission said the turnout rate for the election was 98% with 94.9% of the votes cast.

The result was widely expected in the oil-rich and authoritarian central African nation, where the political opposition is extremely weak.

Obiang was backed by a coalition of 15 parties, including his all-powerful ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE). The PDGE, the only country’s legal political movement until 1991, hold in the legislature and in the country’s municipal offices, includes 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 55 seats in the Senate, and 588 offices contested at the municipal level.

In the country where a single authorized opposition party exists, Obiang exercises near-total political control.

The percentages won by the opposition candidates, Andres Esono Ondo (the Convergence for Social Democracy) and Buenaventura Monsuy Asumu (the Social Democratic Coalition Party), received 9,684 votes and 2,855 votes, respectively.

President’s half-brother, Gabriel Mbega Obiang Lima, is his best enemy in the succession struggle. A serious, US-educated man, he has been Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons for the past 10 years, a crucial position in a country whose revenues depend mainly on oil reserves. Gabriel embodies everything that Westerners value and the United States is the country’s largest oil investor, but the Santomean origin of his mother, Celestina Lima, the president’s second wife, do not play in his favor in a clan where dynasty must prevail. 

Mbasogo has suppressed dissent and survived a string of attempted coups.

Before the elections security forces arrested opposition figures allegedly to thwart a ‘conspiracy’ to commit attacks in the capital Malabo and economic hub Bata.

The authorities also closed the country’s land borders with neighbouring Gabon and Cameroon before campaigning began, saying it was foiling infiltrators from disrupting the vote.

Obiang’s opponents say that under his iron-fisted, hermetic tenure, the country has become the ‘North Korea of Africa’.
Equatorial Guinea is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-richest country in terms of per-capita income in 2021. But the wealth has remained concentrated in the hands of a few families.

The president’s son, Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, whom observers see as a potential successor, was convicted of embezzlement by a French court in 2020. 

France, Britain and the United States have ordered him to forfeit millions of dollars in assets, from mansions to luxury cars, while France also handed him a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of 30 million euros.

Obiang graduated from military school while the country, as Spanish Guinea, was still under the rule of Spain’s fascist dictator, General Francisco Franco.

Then he held a string of key jobs, including head of the notorious Black Beach prison.

His bodyguard comprises soldiers who are members of his clan Esangui, but – for additional security – he has a close-protection unit who are reputedly Israelis. Zimbabweans and Ugandans have also been brought in to help guard the presidential palace.

Obiang has been trying to penetrate the Washington establishment with lobbyists and corrupted media partners whom he lavishes with stolen and diverted oil money. Recently, he has been focused at attacking American companies making business in Equatorial Guinea and diverting attention from his own corruption by pushing the narrative that oil money is mainly being stolen by American companies and their partners.

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