Presidential Elections 2016 to Entrench Dictatorship
Presidential Elections 2016 to Entrench DictatorshipEG Justice March 18, 2016
Opposition parties have emphatically condemned this hastened decision to hold the elections in April, which they consider an unconstitutional maneuver by President Obiang.
(Tampa, 16 March, 2016)On March 11, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema —in power since 1979— unexpectedly announced through a decree that presidential elections would be held on April 24, 2016. This would be President Obiang’s fourth appearance as a candidate, having won previous elections by between 95 and 99% of the vote. The lack of independent state institutions, ongoing human rights violations and the absence of the rule of law make free and fair elections untenable in Equatorial Guinea.
Previous presidential elections in 1996, 2002 and 2009 were marred by allegations of vote rigging, violence, intimidation, and violations of freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Opposition parties have emphatically condemned this hastened decision to hold the elections in April, which they consider an unconstitutional maneuver by President Obiang.
EG Justice has documented previous infringements and impediments to genuine transparent, free and fair elections in Equatorial Guinea. We have pointed to specific provisions by the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, ratified by Equatorial Guinea, which requires the government to “establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral bodies” and “ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state controlled media during elections,” both of which are absent in the country.
The Junta Electoral Nacional (National Electoral Commission), the body in charge of monitoring and conducting elections, is managed by the Minister of Interior, Mr. Clemente Engonga Nguema Onguene, a loyal member of the ruling Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE, Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea). In the past, all but one of the members of the Junta Electoral Nacional were members of the ruling party or satellite parties affiliated with the PDGE, which seriously calls into question the independence of the group.
Just over two months ago EG Justice denounced the illegal detention of two opposition members in Bata who were arrested and imprisoned after distributing leaflets and using a megaphone to announce a meeting of their party -- as they were not allowed to use any of the official channels. The government has continuously denied access to the state media apparatus and/or broadcasting licenses to the opposition.
EG Justice has also documented the use of Jefes de Consejo de Poblado (Village Chiefs), de facto members of the ruling party, to rig and deliver votes for their candidate. These Village Chiefs play an important role enforcing government orders and punishing dissent as a way to show loyalty to the ruling party and secure promotions within the party ranks. They can, for example, go as far as imposing a banishment on opposition leaders.
The unfettered control exercised over the community by Village Chiefs effectively prevents opposition parties from campaigning in those communities ahead of presidential elections; and from monitoring procedures on Election Day. Often, their electoral precincts are closed within 1 to 2 hours of being opened to the public.
In the coming crucial weeks before and after elections in Equatorial Guinea, EG Justice will continue to monitor human rights violations and challenges to democratic participation that tarnish electoral processes. We reassert our call to the Equatoguinean government to ensure —previous to holding any elections— that the provisions laid out by the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance are fully complied with. Concretely, the Equatoguinean government must ensure that: 1) the election commission is fully independent; 2) opposition parties can access the national radio and TV; 3) Village Chiefs cease to harass and punish dissenters, and that they cease to usurp the functions of the electoral commission.
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