Teodoro Obiang Nguema has never received less than 97 percent of the vote in an election.
On Monday, with partial results indicating that 99.2 percent of the vote has gone in his favor, Equatorial Guinea’s leader was surely all set for another seven years in a seat that has no doubt molded to his figure.
One-sixth of African countries have an executive who has been in power for more than 20 years — that’s nine out of 54. Obiang, who took power nearly 37 years ago in a bloody coup, is in the company of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (who turned 92 in February), Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and King Mswati III of Swaziland. But Obiang is most similar to — and most closely followed in terms of the number of years in office by — José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola.
Dos Santos and Obiang preside over Africa’s No. 2 and 3 crude-oil producers, respectively, and are accused of embezzling much of the resulting wealth, while not distributing it fairly, if at all, to their citizens. Equatorial Guinea, once a Spanish colony, has the biggest gap of any country worldwide between its per-capita wealth and its human development index — a sure sign that there are a few outliers skewing the per-capita figure way upward.
Obiang triumphed over six other candidates, winning all but 326 of the 40,926 votes counted, according to a government-run website.
“I am the candidate of the people. Whoever does not vote for me is rejecting peace and opting for disorder,” Obiang said at a rally in the capital, Malabo, according to Bloomberg News. “Many say that they are tired of seeing me, it’s been 36 years already. True, but I’ve dedicated my life to this country,” he said.
Obiang is accused of diverting tax money into his personal accounts, andinternal reports from the U.S. Justice Department accessed by the New York Times allege that “most if not all” of his wealth was gained through corruption relating to his country’s oil and gas industry. Perhaps not so incidentally, big American gas companies such as ExxonMobil, Hess and Marathon are the biggest buyers of Equatoguinean gas, and Obiang travels unimpeded to the United States on a regular basis.
In 2011, U.S. authorities successfully filed papers against his son — who is also his vice president — to seize a $30 million home of his in Malibu, Calif., a Gulfstream jet, a Ferrari, and dozens of pieces of Michael Jackson memorabilia worth more than $2 million, all bought with funds funneled through offshore bank accounts.