[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) and EG Justice [advocacy websites] claimed Tuesday that Equatorial Guinea's recent referendum on constitutional reforms was rife with voter fraud [EG report; HRW report]. The referendum [JURIST report], which was approved with near-unanimous support, removed the age limit for presidents and created a vice president position, apparently allowing current President Teodoro Obiang Nguema to name his son as his successor. HRW and EG Justice released a declaration following the referendum condemning it as a political tool [joint statement] that would strengthen Obiang's power and prevent democracy. EG Justice has raised issues with the way the election was conducted. They claim that voters were subjected to intimidation tactics and allowed to cast votes for family members who were not present. The sources came from opposition party members observing the voting and voters who described conditions at polling places. EG Justice found that in some polling locations there were no ballot cards for a "no," only ballots with "yes." The African director of HRW claimed that, the government "failed to provide an inclusive, transparent, and accountable voting process [and] the result of the referendum and the government's commitment to true democratic reforms both lack credibility." The government has refused to comment.
This is not the first issue human rights groups have had concerns over democracy in Equatorial Guinea. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] condemned [press release] the government for the execution of four men convicted [JURIST report] of an attempted assassination on Obiang in 2009. AI received reports that claimed the men were tortured while in prison and forced to confess to the crimes. One of the convicted men requested to see his family, but by the time they arrived at the prison he had already been executed. Obiang defended [JURIST report] the decision, stating that no laws were broken and all necessary legal procedures were followed.