Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 33 , September 2012

Angolan polls boost SADC profile as stable economy

The peaceful Angolan elections recently concluded are expected to further strengthen southern Africa’s profile as a stable investment destination and boost the region’s economic prospects. Angolans gave the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) another mandate to continue with economic and political reforms that have so far ensured a smooth transition from war to stability in Africa’s second largest oil producer.

Angola is the immediate past chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and has contributed significantly to the regional economy during the past decade. The country is one of the largest economies in SADC and has outperformed other member states during the past decade, registering double-digit growth since 2004. Large investments in infrastructure and the natural resource sector such as oil and diamonds have contributed to the country’s impressive performance in which the economy has experienced double-digit growth for the past decade. Improved terms of trade due to increasing oil prices also contributed to the positive performance.

Thanks to the good performance by Angola – which at one point grew as fast as 25 percent per annum – the regional economy has averaged five percent growth for most of the past decade. Instability in Angola would, therefore, have a cascading effect on the rest of the region. According to final results released by the National Electoral Commission (CNE), dos Santos’ party, the MPLA got 71.82 percent of the more than 5.6 million ballots cast in the 31 August parliamentary elections. This was lower than the 81 percent the governing party got during the last general elections held in 2008.

The main opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) nearly doubled its tally from 2008, coming second with 18.7 percent of the ballots. Its tally of votes was 10 percent four years ago. The Convergence Angola Salvation Wide-Electoral Coalition (CASA-EC), a coalition of four small parties, could only manage six percent of the votes. CASA-EC was one of four coalitions that contested the elections. Of the 220 total seats in the National Assembly, 130 were contested from closed lists by proportional representation, and the remaining 90 elected in 18 constituencies that have five seats each. Voter turnout was about 60 percent, according to the electoral commission.

The victory by the MPLA assured President Eduardo dos Santos of another term as head of state of Angola. A 2010 new Angolan Constitution abolished direct election of the president, with the majority party in the assembly gaining the right to name a president, who will then choose his or her own vice-president. These were the third elections since Angola attained independence from Portugal in 1975. The first post-independence election was in 1992, although it was never completed because the civil war re-ignited while the second polls were held in 2008, six years after the end of the conflict.

The Constitution also limited the presidential term to two five-year terms but this did not include the years already served by dos Santos. The governance charter also abolished the post of Prime Minister, with the role assumed by the vice-president. The polls were described as peaceful and orderly by observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union, Economic Community of Central African States, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC and Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries.

In a joint statement, heads of the six observer missions said the general elections were conducted in accordance with international and regional principles and guidelines governing democratic elections. They congratulated the Angolan people and politicians for their maturity in allowing the peaceful conduct of the polls but called on the political parties and candidates to work together in order to consolidate peace and democracy in the country. “The observer missions do hereby congratulate the people of Angola for exercising their civic responsibility in a peaceful and orderly manner, and determination to hold the general elections on the 31st of August 2012 in ways that consolidate peace, security and stability, enhance reconciliation, boost the democratic process and strengthen the foundation for further social and economic development,” the joint declaration read.

They, however, called for timely accreditation of observers and political party agents in future polls as well as facilitation of voting by Angolans living in the Diaspora.

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