Following an abortive coup in March 1969, all existing political parties were merged into the United National Party (Partido Único Nacional) under the leadership of President Macías Nguema. Political activity outside this party was made illegal. The name of the party was later modified to United National Workers Party (Partido Único Nacional de los Trabajadores— PUNT). After the 1979 coup, all political parties were banned and the ruling Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) monopolized power, benefiting from strong government patronage. Among the opposition parties in exile in the mid-1980s were the National Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy and the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Equatorial Guinea. A source of opposition is resentment by Biokans of mainland domination.
The 1991 constitution legalized political parties and a January 1992 law on party formation initiated the process of party organization. But it restricted party membership and activity to those who had lived continuously in Equatorial Guinea for 10 years. Since most opposition politicians had been in exile since independence, the effect was to prohibit serious opposition. Small parties—the Liberal Democrat Convention, the Popular Union, and the Progressive Democratic Alliance—were recognized in 1992. The Equatorial Guinea Progress Party (PPGE) was legalized after a long delay and, in 1993, the Socialist Party of Equatorial Guinea (PSGE) was approved. By mid-1993, 13 legal opposition parties stood prepared to contest elections, scheduled for 12 September. A number of opposition leaders were even granted amnesty. Yet by May, several leaders were arrested and, in August, one died in jail. The September elections were postponed until 21 November, but opposition parties boycotted them. The PDGE won easily (68 out of 80 seats) amid a low voter turnout. The Joint Opposition Platform (POC), an alliance of eight opposition parties, had called for the boycott. In 1995, the government reduced the residency requirement for politicians to five years leading up to an election. Political parties, however, continue to face harassment.
In June 1997 the Progress Party, perhaps the only party that could constitute an alternative government, was banned by presidential decree. The government accused journalist Severo Moto, leader of the Progress Party, of plotting a coup against Obiang, by linking him to arms intercepted by Angolan authorities on a Russian boat destined for Equatorial Guinea in mid-May. Moto exiled himself to Spain, but the government continues to seek his extradition to face trial in the country.
The remaining opposition parties participated in the 7 March 1999 elections but rejected the results due to serious irregularities, challenging them in court. They also refused to take up their seats in the House. Once again, the ruling PDGE won an overwhelming majority with 75 of the 80 seats to 4 seats for the People's Union (UP), and 1 seat for the Convergence for a Social Democracy (CPDS). The international community also criticized the conduct of the elections. The opposition's presence in the National Assembly was further reduced when the UP dismissed two of its four parliamentary delegates in April, accusing them of endorsing Obiang's dictatorial government. The next presidential elections were to be held December 2009 with parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2004.