At the weekend the country’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) rejected opposition parties’ complaints and requests to postpone the elections for a month. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), under the leadership of Isaias Samakuva, criticised the CNE as being incompetent and biased in favour of the ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
It requested that the method used to count votes specifically in Luanda, the capital, be reviewed, looking at voter registration.
The Electoral Register Central Database (FICRE) that was handed over to the CNE by the Ministry for Territorial Administration (MAT) on 15 May contains the details of more than 9,7 million voters. By law, the CNE should have registered voters, but the MPLA, in power for nearly 37 years, circumvented the constitution and electoral laws and allowed MAT, headed by MPLA politburo member Bornito de Sousa, to undertake the job without public scrutiny.
Predictably, opposition parties have decried alleged widespread fraud in the registration process.
Despite the dissatisfaction of the opposition parties, Angolans will head to polls on 31 August, for the second time since the end of the war, to elect 220 deputies to the National Assembly known as Assembleia Nacional.
Of the current deputies serving in the unicameral body, 130 are elected at large while five are elected to represent each of Angola’s 18 provinces. Five political parties and four coalitions will contest the parliamentary elections. The MPLA and the main opposition UNITA, as well as three other parties – the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), the Party for Social Renovation (PRS) and New Democracy (ND) – were cleared by the Constitutional Court to take part.
The new opposition coalition Broad Convergence for Angola’s Salvation-Electoral Coalition (CASA-CE), which was founded last March after its leader Abel Chivukuvuku lost the UNITA leadership election to Samakuva, is one of the four coalitions that will participate in the election. The Court rejected applications from 18 other political bodies. The three parties expected to get the most votes are the MPLA, UNITA, and CASA.
A 2010 amendment to Angola’s constitution means that there will be no direct presidential election. The first name (leader of) on the list of the winning party in the parliamentary election – President dos Santos in the case of the MPLA – will become president. The polls are almost certain to re-elect President dos Santos, whose 33 years in power make him Africa’s second-longest ruling leader after Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
Angola held its first legislative elections after the ceasefire was brokered on 5 September 2008. President dos Santos’ MPLA won 81,6 per cent of the vote, giving the party 191 out of 220 seats in the Assembleia Nacional. The MPLA’s victory was largely accepted by most members of the opposition and the remaining 29 seats were distributed as follows: UNITA 16, the Social Renewal Party (PRS) 8, National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) 3, and the New Democracy (ND) coalition 2. Political analysts say UNITA could raise its share of the vote to about 15 per cent.
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), led by Tanzania as the current chair of the SADC organ on politics, will deploy an observer mission to monitor the transparency of the elections. South Africa has indicated, in a statement released by the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, that it will send 48 observers, including members of Parliament, civil society and the government, as part of the SADC observer mission. This observer mission is being deployed to Angola at the invitation of the Angolan government to ensure the elections are peaceful.
Set against the backdrop of opposition complaints, there are concerns that the late deployment of the mission means that SADC missed an opportunity to ensure that Angola’s elections are held in conformity with regional standards for democratic electoral processes.
Although MPLA is assured a win in the upcoming elections, growing dissent due to allegations of mismanagement of government funds, high levels of unemployment, over-reliance on the oil industry and the uncertainty over its leadership succession are some of the key issues that it will have to address to ensure stability in the country.
While the MPLA airs video adverts listing its achievements – 2 700km of railway, 148 railway stations, 10 renovated airports, 400 bridges, 6 500km of roads – vast segments of the population do not have access to basic infrastructure. For example, 13,7 million Angolans out of a total population of about 20-25 million reportedly do not have access to electricity. The MPLA will need to facilitate socio-economic development in order to end widespread unemployment, poverty and inequality and so stem social unrest. Significantly, the ruling party is aware of the need to trickle down the county’s oil wealth, as evidenced by the party’s campaign slogan ‘Grow More, Distribute Better’.
Source: Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane/Pretoria)
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