The longest-serving president of any country around the world has just been re-elected for the fifth time. Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema will see his nearly 37-year-long tenure in office extended after securing 93.7 percent of the vote.
Obiang, a 73-year-old former military officer, beat opposition candidate Avelino Mocache Benga who won just 1.5 percent of the vote. On election day, the leader said that casting a ballot in his favor meant "voting for the continued development of Equatorial Guinea."
The West African country is a former colony of Spain and the only sovereign country in Africa where Spanish is the official language. Obiang has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979, when he ousted his own uncle from power in a military coup.
Voting went ahead peacefully and without incident on Sunday, observers said, citing a more than 90 percent voter turnout rate. Reuters reported that in some regions there appeared to be a low turnout.
The country boasts the highest gross domestic product per capita in Africa thanks to an oil and gas drilling boom, but critics say that money is funneled to a rich elite while much of the country is mired in poverty. Equatorial Guinea ranks 144th out of 187 states on the United Nations' 2014 Human Development Index.
It also has a reputation for corruption and human rights abuses, allegations the government denies. Meanwhile, opponents say elections in the small nation have been consistently rigged and some have called for a boycott.
"The headlines announcing Obiang's re-election were likely written long ago," Jeffrey Smith, an international human rights consultant, told Reuters. "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."
A 2004 US 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.
While Obiang is the world's longest-serving ruler, there are several others not too far behind him in Africa.: Angola's President Eduardo dos Santos is behind by just one month. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was elected a few months later in February 1980. Of the last remaining leaders from the 1970s, the Republic of Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso actually rose to power first in March 1979, but was voted out of office in 1992 before taking control again in 1997.