Recent Elections: The government held legislative and municipal elections in May 2013. The PDGE won 98.7 percent of seats in the House of Deputies and the newly created Senate. The opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) won a single seat in each chamber. The PDGE also won 98.1 percent of city council seats throughout the country. The lopsided results and weak independent monitoring of the electoral process raised suspicions of systematic fraud. The CPDS disputed the results publicly and filed a formal complaint with the National Electoral Commission, but the government did not address its objections.
The few international election observers present were able to cover only a small percentage of the polling stations. The government refused election assistance offered by the EU. Election observers noted the following irregularities at some polling stations: failure to respect the secrecy of the vote, the absence of ballots printed to enable voting for an opposition party, unsealed ballot boxes, incomplete voting result summaries, lack of posting of voting results as required by law, and ruling party propaganda around and in the polling stations. Authorities deployed soldiers to all polling stations, and there were reports that they intimidated voters.
Opposition parties questioned the legitimacy of the voter registration process, and voter registries were not made public in advance of the election. No independent and impartial body existed to oversee the electoral process or consider election-related complaints. The National Electoral Commission has the responsibility to provide for the fairness of elections and to handle postelection grievances, but the commission comprised mostly members of the ruling party, including the minister of interior, who headed the commission. The government restricted opposition parties’ access to media and delayed the provision of constitutionally mandated campaign funding during the campaign.
Voters took three party-slate ballots into the voting booth and chose only one to deposit in the voting urn outside. The two unused ballots were discarded on the voting booth floor. This system required each voter to cast all votes in the municipal and legislative races for candidates of a single party. As a result there was increased pressure on voters to demonstrate loyalty to the ruling party by voting for PDGE candidates exclusively. Furthermore, this system of voting made it impossible to track all ballots printed to safeguard against multiple voting.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The PDGE ruled through a complex network of family, clan, and ethnic relationships. Public sector employees were pressured to join the PDGE. The party’s near monopoly on power, funding, and access to national media hampered the country’s opposition parties--the CPDS, UP, Popular Action for Equatorial Guinea, and Citizens for the Innovation of Equatorial Guinea (C.I.).
For example, during the year the PDGE conducted a national campaign with extensive media coverage in preparation for the 2016 elections. Opposition parties, however, had no access to media during this period, contravening the National Pact of 1993, the regulating framework for political parties that stipulates access to media and political financing and that provides for opposition political parties to have free weekly national radio and TV spots.
Political parties could receive both private and public funding but were not required to disclose the amount of private funding. In advance of the 2016 presidential elections, only the PDGE received public funding, and the amount was not publicly disclosed.
A packet of five new laws governing the political process was passed, an outcome of the 2014 National Political Dialogue. One law establishes an independent National Electoral Commission, which had not been constituted by year’s end despite presidential elections scheduled for 2016. New political parties were encouraged to apply for registration as a result of the dialogue, and the Center-Right Union and C.I. were registered.
The government subjected opposition members to arbitrary arrest and harassment.
For example, in mid-March authorities in Malabo detained Guillermo Nguema Ela, leader of the opposition FDR party, forcibly transported him to his home village near the mainland city of Mongomo, and directed him not to leave the village indefinitely. Authorities arrested FDR member Luis Nzo Ondo several days later while he was distributing information denouncing Nguema Ela’s confinement. Authorities jailed Nzo Ondo overnight and forcibly transferred him to the Mongomo area, directing him not to leave. Although no charges were filed, both Nguema Ela and Nzo Ondo remained in internal exile.
During the year judicial officials investigated highly publicized allegations that CPDS leader Andres Esono Ondo was involved in an implausible plot to pay 150,000 euros to transport a Guinean man suffering from Ebola to Equatorial Guinea to spread the Ebola virus. During the investigation Esono Ondo was restricted from travelling outside Malabo.
Opposition members reported discrimination in hiring, job retention, and obtaining scholarships and business licenses. They also claimed the government pressured foreign companies not to hire opposition members. Businesses that employed citizens with ties to families, individuals, parties, or groups out of favor with the government reportedly were forced to dismiss those employees or face reprisals.
Registered opposition parties faced restrictions on freedom of speech, association, and assembly. For example, supporters who attended opposition political party campaign rallies were singled out for police interrogation and harassment. Some political parties that existed before the 1992 law establishing procedures to register political parties remained banned, allegedly for “supporting terrorism.”
Civil servants were easily removed for political reasons and without due process. In June both the executive and judicial branches were restructured, with party affiliation a key factor in obtaining government employment. The ruling party conducted a nationwide campaign, and government employees were required to support them to keep their positions.
The president exercised strong powers as head of state, commander of the armed forces, head of the judiciary, and founder and head of the ruling party. The government generally restricted leadership positions in government to select PDGE members or members of a coalition of loyal parties that campaigned and voted with the PDGE.
In 2011 the government conducted and won a referendum to alter the constitution significantly. The amended constitution concentrates power in the hands of the president and allows President Obiang, who has ruled since 1979, to serve two more seven-year terms. (One of the amendments cancels the presidential age limit of 75 and institutes presidential term limits of two consecutive seven-year mandates, to become effective with the 2016 presidential election, when Obiang will be age 74.) Other amendments establish a senate, an Anticorruption Tribunal (all of whose members are appointed by the president), and a human rights ombudsman, nominated by parliament and ratified by the president. Neither the tribunal nor the human rights ombudsman was operational by year’s end, although the ombudsman had been sworn in. The amendments also create the post of vice president. Following the referendum the president created a second vice presidential position in charge of defense and national security, a position not provided for in the constitution. In a move widely viewed as a further attempt to consolidate power, the president appointed his eldest son, Obiang Mangue, to the post.
Participation of Women and Minorities: Women occupied 10 of 75 Senate seats (including that of the Senate president) and 18 of 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Three of the 25 cabinet members were women, one of the 13 delegate ministers was a woman, three of eight vice-ministers were women, and six of 37 secretaries of state were women. In May the president dissolved the entire judicial branch. The newly appointed Supreme Court continued to be an all-male institution.
The government did not overtly limit minority participation in politics, but members of the Fang ethnic group occupied the top ranks. The group, estimated to constitute 80 percent of the population, continued to exercise dominant political and economic power.