Politics of Equatorial GuineaThe 1982 constitution of Equatorial Guinea gives the President extensive powers, including naming and dismissing members of the cabinet, making laws by decree, dissolving the Chamber of Representatives, negotiating and ratifying treaties and calling legislative elections. The President retains his role as commander in chief of the armed forces and minister of defense, and he maintains close supervision of the military activity. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and operates under powers designated by the President. The Prime Minister coordinates government activities in areas other than foreign affairs, national defense and security.
The Chamber of Representatives is comprised of 15 members appointed by the President and 45 members chosen by indirect elections; the term is 5 years. Adult citizens elect officials by secret ballot in their towns and villages. These officials then become electors who choose the 45 representatives from their own number, one per district, to serve in the national legislature. In practice, the Chamber is not independent and is unable to act without presidential approval or direction.
The President appoints the governors of the seven provinces. Each province is divided administratively into districts and municipalities. The internal administrative system falls under the Ministry of Territorial Administration; several other ministries are represented at the provincial and district levels.
The judicial system follows similar administrative levels. At the top are the President and his judicial advisors (the Supreme Court). In descending rank are the appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. The current court system, which often uses customary law, is a combination of traditional, civil, and military justice, and it operates in an ad hoc manner for lack of established procedures and experienced judicial personnel.
The other official branch of the government is the State Council. The State Council's main function is to serve as caretaker in case of death or physical incapacity of the President. It comprises the following ex officio members: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the President of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Social and Economic Council.
In power since 1979, the Obiang government has made little progress in stimulating the economy. Extremely serious health and sanitary conditions persist, and the educational system remains in desperate condition. Although the abuses and atrocities that characterized the Macias years have been eliminated, effective rule of law does not exist. Religious freedom is tolerated.
In the period following Spain's grant of local autonomy to Equatorial Guinea in 1963, there was a great deal of political party activity. Bubi and Fernandino parties on the island preferred separation from Rio Muni or a loose federation. Ethnically based parties in Rio Muni favored independence for a united country comprising Bioko and Rio Muni, an approach that ultimately won out. (The Movimiento para la Auto-determinacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB) which advocates independence for the island under Bubi control, is one of the offshoots of the era immediately preceding independence). After the accession of Macias to power, political activity largely ceased in Equatorial Guinea. Opposition figures who lived among the exile communities in Spain and elsewhere agitated for reforms; some of them had been employed in the Macias and Obiang governments. After political activities in Equatorial Guinea were legalized in the early 1990s, some opposition leaders returned to test the waters, but repressive actions have continued sporadically.
With the prodding of the United Nations, the United States, Spain, and other donor countries, the government undertook an electoral census in 1995. Freely contested municipal elections, the country's first, were held in September. Most observers agree that the elections themselves were relatively free and transparent and that the opposition parties garnered between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total vote. The government, however, delayed announcement of the results and then claimed a highly dubious 52% victory overall and the capture of 19 of 27 municipal councils. Ironically, Malabo's council went to the opposition. In early January 1996 Obiang called presidential elections to be held in 6 weeks. The campaign was marred by allegations of fraud, and most of the other candidates withdrew in the final week. Obiang claimed re-election with 98% of the vote. International observers agreed the election was not free or fair. In an attempt to ameliorate his critics, Obiang announced his new cabinet, giving minor portfolios to some people identified by the government as being opposition figures.
Since independence, the two Presidents (Macias and his nephew Obiang) have been the dominant political forces. Since 1979, President Obiang has been constrained only by a need to maintain a consensus among his advisers and political supporters, most of whom are drawn from the Nguema family in Mongomo, in the eastern part of Rio Muni. The Nguema family is part of the Esangui subclan of the Fang. Alleged coup attempts in 1981 and 1983 raised little sympathy among the populace.
President Obiang's rule, in which schools were permitted to reopen and primary education expanded, and public utilities and roads restored, compares favorably with Macias' tyranny and terror. It has been criticized for not implementing genuine democratic reforms. Corruption and a dysfunctional judicial system disrupt the development of Equatorial Guinea's economy and society. In March 2001 the President appointed a new Prime Minister, Candido Muatetema Rivas, and replaced several ministers perceived to be especially corrupt. However, the government budget still does not include all revenues and expenditures. The United Nations Development Program has proposed a broad governance reform program, but the Equato Guinean Government was not moving rapidly to implement it.
Although Equatorial Guinea lacks a well-established democratic tradition comparable to the developed democracies of the West, it has progressed toward developing a participatory political system out of the anarchic, chaotic, and repressive conditions of the Macias years.
conventional long form: Republic of Equatorial Guinea
conventional short form: Equatorial Guinea
local long form: Republica de Guinea Ecuatorial
local short form: Guinea Ecuatorial
former: Spanish Guinea
Data code: EK
Government type: republic
Administrative divisions: 7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Litoral, Wele-Nzas
Independence: 12 October 1968 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 12 October (1968)
Constitution: approved by national referendum 17 November 1991; amended January 1995
Legal system: partly based on Spanish civil law and tribal custom
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal adult
chief of state: President Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (since 3 August 1979 when he seized power in a military coup)
head of government: Prime Minister Serafin Seriche DOUGAN (since NA April 1996); First Vice Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Miguel OYONO NDONG (since NA January 1998); Second Vice Prime Minister for Internal Affairs Demetrio Elo NDONG NZE FUMU (since NA January 1998)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote to a seven-year term; election last held 25 February 1996 (next to be held NA February 2003); prime minister and vice prime ministers appointed by the president
election results: President Teodoro OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO reelected with 98% of popular vote in elections marred by widespread fraud
unicameral House of People's Representatives or Camara de Representantes del Pueblo (80 seats; members directly elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 7 March 1999 (next to be held NA 2004)
election results: percent of vote by party - PDGE 80%, UP 6%, CPDS 5%; seats by party - PDGE 75, UP 4 and CPDS 1
note: opposition parties have refused to take up their seats in the House to protest widespread irregularities in the 1999 legislative elections
Judicial branch: Supreme Tribunal
Political parties and leaders: Convergence Party for Social Democracy or CPDS [Placido Miko ABOGO]; Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea or PDGE (ruling party) [Augustin Nse NFUMU]; Party for Progress of Equatorial Guinea or PPGE [Severo MOTO]; Popular Action of Equatorial Guinea or APGE [Miguel Esono EMAN]; Popular Union or UP [Fabian MUSA, general secretary]; Progressive Democratic Alliance or ADP [Victorino Bolekia BONAY, mayor of Malabo]
International organization participation: ACCT, ACP, AfDB, BDEAC, CEEAC, ECA, FAO, FZ, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAS (observer), OAU, OPCW, UDEAC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WToO, WTrO (applicant)
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Pastor Micha ONDO BILE
chancery: 1712 I Street NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20006
telephone:  (202) 296-4174
FAX:  (202) 296-4195
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador John M. YATES
note: the US does not have an embassy in Equatorial Guinea (embassy closed September 1995); US relations with Equatorial Guinea are handled through the US Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon; the US State Department is considering opening a Consulate Agency in Malabo
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side and the coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms has six yellow six-pointed stars (representing the mainland and five offshore islands) above a gray shield bearing a silk-cotton tree and below which is a scroll with the motto UNIDAD, PAZ, JUSTICIA (Unity, Peace, Justice)
- See also : Equatorial Guinea