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The African Elections Project :  your authoritative African Elections Information and Knowledge online portal, covering elections across the continent

Projecto Eleições Africanas: seu portal autorizado para informação e conhecimento sobre Eleições Africanas. Cobrindo eleições por toda Áfrca.

Le projet sur les elections en Afrique: votre portail exclusif et credible d'information et de connaissance en ligne, qui couvre les élections à travers le continent
Date:30 Aug 2012
Tense Atmosphere in Angola Ahead of Polls

Ahead of tomorrow’s Angolan legislative elections - the third the country has ever known - the situation in Angola is increasingly tense. Opposition parties denounce the work of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) as biased and warn of electoral fraud, while the ruling MPLA, has threatened to match every opposition protest with a larger counter-demonstration.

Journalist Louise Redvers in the capital, Luanda, told the BBC, the month-long election campaign has been lively, colourful and mostly peaceful, with the exception of a few isolated incidents of violence in rural areas, but the vote itself may not run so smoothly.

The failure to publish a full electoral list - despite a legal requirement - has created confusion about where people should vote and the lack of transparency has prompted allegations that the vote is being fixed in the government's favour. UNITA’s leader, Isaias Samakuva, has said he wants to meet Mr. Dos Santos to discuss the various problems, the AFP news agency reports. "We are very concerned," Unita spokesman Alcides Sakala told the BBC. "This election is not being organised in an open way according to the law and the correct processes are not being followed. This makes us worry that fraud could be committed." Angelo Kapwacha from the Civil Society Electoral Process Reflection, a group of non-politically aligned national observers, said the oil-rich nation is not ready for the vote.

The preparation of the elections by the CNE is fundamentally skewed: its new head, while formally neutral, remains a senior judge with close ties to the ruling party, and the audit of the voters' roll, as well as the handling and electronic processing of votes, have been outsourced to companies close to the government without public tender, raising further fears of fraud.

Beyond the fundamentally skewed electoral process, the results of 2008 reflected the deep war-weariness of Angolans, as well as the weakness of opposition parties. The population opted for stability, as the threat of a return to armed conflict was constantly, more or less subtly, depicted by the ruling party.

Furthermore, the MPLA successfully demonised UNITA as the party of war and destruction while portraying President dos Santos as the 'Architect of Peace' and the only guarantor of stability, reconstruction, and economic growth. Opposition parties, including UNITA, failed to propose a credible alternative, or were, in the case of the FNLA, weakened by infighting. More importantly, UNITA and PRS (Social Renovation Party, currently the third-largest in parliament) accepted the electoral results for the greater good of the country, making a peaceful outcome of the elections possible.

Much will depend on the result of the elections. If the MPLA wins with significantly more than 50 percent of the vote - which is likely due to its control of the entire process - the opposition will cry fraud, but the current leadership of the MPLA is extremely unlikely to relinquish power for the creation of a government of 'national unity'. The reactions of the opposition and youth protesters, as well as the repressive measures deployed by the regime, will be decisive in determining whether Angola remains the electoral authoritarian darling of cash-strapped western countries, or goes down the path of revolt and full-blown repression.

According to Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), the Parliament of Angola established and elected in 1992 in a watershed election that coincided with the peace process in Angola and the democratisation process in much of Africa. The Angolan Parliament is very weak in terms of its constitutional mandate, mainly because it is operating within a strong presidential system. It is also weak in terms of resource allocations and working conditions, because the ruling party is so dominant. Despite this, a slow and uneven process of increased parliamentary power for possible checks and balances is just beginning.

The National Assembly (Assembleia Nacional) has 223 members, elected for a four year term, 130 members by proportional representation, 90 members in provincial districts, and 3 members to represent Angolans abroad. In the September 2008 elections, the ruling MPLA took 81 percent of the vote, representing 191 seats reducing the share of its wartime opponent, UNITA, to 16 out of a 220-seat parliament.


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