DAKAR (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang is expected to extend his 37-year rule after elections on Sunday which he says will give him more than 90 percent of the vote.
Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving leader, has ruled the former Spanish colony since 1979 when he ousted his uncle in a military coup.
Opponents say elections in the small West African oil producer have been consistently rigged and some have called for a boycott.
Voting went ahead peacefully and without incident on Sunday, observers said, although in some regions there appeared to be a low turnout.
Casting his ballot, 73-year-old Obiang said that those voting for him “were voting for the continued development of Equatorial Guinea”.
The country boasts the highest GDP per capita in Africa thanks to an oil and gas drilling boom. But it ranks 144 out of 187 states on the United Nations’ 2014 Human Development Index.
Equatorial Guinea has a reputation for corruption and human rights abuses, allegations the government denies. Critics say oil money is funneled to a rich elite while much of the country is mired in poverty.
A 2004 U.S. Senate probe showed millions of dollars channeled by Obiang and relatives into the disgraced Riggs Bank.
Obiang’s eldest son, known as Teodorin, who is a vice president and potential successor, has faced corruption and money-laundering investigations in the United States and France that cast him as a playboy splashing out millions on luxury items.
“The headlines announcing Obiang’s re-election were likely written long ago,” said Jeffrey Smith, an international human rights consultant.
“It was inevitable that the ruling party would maintain power, unfortunately to the detriment of the people who have long suffered under callous dictatorship and devastating poverty.”
Reporting By Edward McAllister; Editing by Nerys Avery