The recent legislative and municipal elections in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea were a chance for the government there to live up to the goal of widening the country’s democratic space; a goal that was the focus of Equatorial Guinea’s celebrated National Dialogue of 2014. As long-time President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said at the time, “Democracy and national unity must be priorities in the problems that affect the nation…Where there are no public liberties, there cannot be institutional development.”
Unfortunately, as U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea Julie Furuta-Toy wrote in a recent op-ed, the opportunity for the government to expand the country’s democratic space, demonstrate that it hears the voice and the will of the people, and improve its image on the international stage, was missed in November.
“The elections were a step back,” she wrote. “The balloting of candidates did not allow the public to vote freely for candidates to represent them at any level, since the voters only had the choice to vote for a party; the members of the public were registered to vote in a process that was not transparent and was not observed by the international or domestic observers; and the final count of the votes was not at all transparent or free…Additionally, restrictions on internet and communications systems were enforced.”
Reportedly, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea, the party of President Nguema, won the legislative and municipal elections with 92 percent of the vote. At the Chamber of Deputies in Malabo, only a single member of the opposition from the Citizens Party for Innovation was elected, leaving 99 seats to the party in power.
Ambassador Furuta-Toy emphasized that a “vibrant and loyal opposition is necessary to create economic opportunities for everyone. Without hearing the voices, without an independent representative democracy, the government limits the ability of its citizens to make informed choices for the future of the nation.”
As she wrote earlier this year, the greatest resource of Equatorial Guinea is not its abundant supply of oil and gas. “The greatest resource of Equatorial Guinea is actually her people,” said Ambassador Furuta-Toy.
It is past time for the leaders of Equatorial Guinea to ensure that Equatoguineans are allowed the democratic space required for their country to flourish.