October 16, 2009 / 5:44 PM / 9 years ago

Equatorial Guinea to hold Nov. 29 presidential poll

MALABO, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea will hold its presidential election on Nov. 29, several months earlier than previously planned, the oil-producing nation’s president said in a decree read on state radio on Friday.

Incumbent President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power for 30 years, is widely expected to stand and is unlikely to face any serious challenge as head of a tiny nation that produces some 450,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Obiang won the last election in December 2002 with 97.1 percent of the vote, after his main opponents withdrew following a crackdown on the political opposition in the run up to the vote. There are no term limits in the country.

Allegations of political harassment continue and there is little opposition or civil society in the country.

One political leader, however, immediately condemned the calling of an early election, saying that the opposition had expected a poll to be held early next year.

"With such little time, it will be impossible to properly organise a political campaign in a country that lacks everything," said Placido Mico, secretary general of the opposition CPDS party.

Under Obiang, Equatorial Guinea has emerged from the international obscurity it endured under the dictatorship of his uncle. It has become a major supplier of oil to China and the United States and has ambitious plans to ship gas to Europe.

The president’s absolute grip on power has drawn criticism of widescale rights abuses and the mismanagement of the vast wealth accumulated from his country’s resources. (Writing by David Lewis; editing by Andrew Roche)

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