The world’s longest serving president seeks to extend his rule for 43 years

DAKAR (Reuters) – Equatorial Guinea votes on Sunday in a general election in which President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the world’s longest serving president, is expected to extend his 43-year rule at the helm of the tiny oil-producing West. African country.

More than 400,000 people are registered to vote in the country of about 1.5 million people. Voters will also cast their ballots to elect the 100 members of parliament to the House of Representatives, 55 of the country’s 70 senators, and local mayors.

Observers do not expect surprises. Obiang, 80, has long been elected with more than 90% of the vote in opinion polls whose fairness has been questioned by international observers given longstanding complaints by rights groups about a lack of political freedom.

He is running for a sixth term against two opposition candidates – Buenaventura Monsue Asomu, who is running for the sixth time against Obiang, and Andres Esono Ondo, who is running for the first time.

“The presidential election is completely suspense-free,” said Maja Pofkon, senior analyst for Africa at risk intelligence firm Versk Maplecroft.

“Border closures, harassment and arrests of opposition supporters paved the way for the extension of Obiang’s 43-year rule,” it said.

The United States and the European Union, in separate statements, called for free and fair elections, and raised concerns about reports of harassment and intimidation of opposition and civil society groups.

The government dismissed the reports, calling them interference in its electoral process.

Equatorial Guinea has only had two presidents since independence from Spain in 1968. Obiang overthrew his uncle, Francisco MacĂ­as Nguema, in a coup in 1979.

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At the conclusion of his election campaign on Friday, Obiang said he had decided to bring the presidential elections forward by several months, and to hold them alongside the legislative and municipal elections, to save money due to the economic crisis.

Oil and gas production accounts for about three-quarters of revenues in the OPEC member country. But production has dwindled in recent years to about 93,000 bpd from about 160,000 bpd in 2015 due to the maturation of the fields.

(Reporting by Patty Felix). Editing by Cooper Envin and Frances Kerry

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