Citizens of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea went to the polls today to vote in a referendum on a new constitution. Changes include the imposition of term limits on the president (two seven-year terms in office); the creation of a vice-presidency and Senate; the establishment of economic policy and auditing watchdogs; and an ombudsman. Opponents charge that the new constitution is designed to extend the rule of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, in power since 1979, and pave the way for succession of his son, who is thought to be the most likely nominee for Vice-President. Obiang, it will be recalled, was recently in the news after UNESCO rejected establishment of a prize to be set up in his name. Which leads to the question of whether constitutional window dressing is any more effective than international window dressing? But the succession gambit is something that could only be done through a constitutional change. This is another example of one of the functions of constitutions in authoritarian regimes: trying to ensure orderly succession.
UPDATE: The results are now coming in: 99.04 percent for and 0.96 percent against. Why can’t dictators at least come up with credible numbers when they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes?