Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 32 , September 2012

Election fever grips Angola

Peace, security and the economy were major issues for all political parties as Angolans voted in parliamentary elections on 31 August. The governing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) promised to continue policies that have led to double-digit economic growth during the past few years, largely through expansion of the petroleum sector. Large investments in infrastructure, and the natural resources such as oil and diamonds, have contributed to the impressive performance. Improved terms of trade due to increasing oil prices also contributed to the positive performance.

The MPLA manifesto targeted the promotion of peace and democracy, the preservation of national unity and internal cohesion. Angola has enjoyed peace since the end of the civil war a decade ago, becoming one of Africa's largest oil producers, and much has changed since the 2002 peace agreement ended the country’s 27-year conflict. This will be the third national election since Angola attained independence from Portugal in 1975. The first post-independence election was in 1992, when the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) refused to accept the results and re-ignited civil war. The second polls were held in 2008, six years after the end of the conflict. The MPLA won by over 81 percent and has used its commanding parliamentary majority to pass a raft of new laws including a new constitution, which abolished direct presidential elections.

Under the new Electoral Law, the President and Vice President will be indirectly elected. The Head of State will be chosen from the party with the parliamentary majority. Nine political parties were cleared to participate in the parliamentary elections while 18 others were disqualified for failing to comply with requirements of the country’s Electoral Law.             Five of the parties were contesting the elections separately while the remainder were coalitions of 20 small parties. The five main political parties in Angola include the MPLA and the main opposition UNITA. Others are the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), the Party for Social Renovation (PRS), and the Popular Party for Development (PAPOD).

The coalitions include the Convergence Angola Salvation Wide-Electoral Coalition (CASA-EC), which is an umbrella of four small parties, the brainchild of former senior UNITA official, Abel Chivukuvuku. Other coalitions are the Opposition Political Consultative Council (CPO), New Democracy (ND) and United Front for Change of Angola (FUMA). The ND is a coalition of seven parties while the CPO and FUMA are umbrella groups made up of four and six small parties, respectively. The main campaign message for the opposition CPO coalition has been the improvement of Angola’s political and economic stability. António Miguel, a member of the executive committee of CPO, pledged that the coalition would ensure “all citizens enjoy the riches of the country” if elected.

More than nine million Angolans were eligible to vote to choose new Members of Parliament in the country’s 220-seat National Assembly. Of the total of 220 seats in the National Assembly, 130 were to be contested from closed lists by proportional representation, and the remaining 90 elected in 18 five-seat constituencies. The National Electoral Commission (CNE) spokesperson, Julia Ferreira, said that some 10,780 polling stations were set up around the country. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) was launched on 20 August in Luanda by SADC Executive Secretary, Tomáz Augusto Salomão.

The mission comprises 98 observers from eight SADC member states (Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and the SADC Secretariat, who were deployed in 14 provinces.             Salomão said the deployment of observers should ideally have been done 14 days before the voting day but noted that SEOM encountered a number of challenges, particularly with accreditation, resulting in the delay.“This means, therefore, that SEOM has had no adequate time, as prescribed in our rules to observe the pre-election period of the election. We will, however, restrict our observation to the voting day and post-election phases,” Salomão said.

Traditionally, SEOM observation is undertaken in three phases: the pre-election period, election-day and post-election phases. However, he said SADC was “encouraged by the electoral instruments put in place by both the National Electoral Commission of Angola and the government that enhance the electoral process.”

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