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Angola Opposition Party Unita to Choose Leader for 2012 Vote

The largest opposition party in Angola, Africa’s second-largest crude producer, plans to choose a leader this month to challenge the 32-year rule of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in elections.

The National Union for Total Independence of Angola, or Unita, a former rebel movement, will meet Dec. 13 to Dec. 16 to choose between current party head Isaias Samakuva and Jose Pedro Katchiungo, a former intelligence officer, it announced yesterday on its Facebook page. The winner will take part in national elections planned for the last quarter of 2012, in what would be the first vote for president since 1992.

Samakuva has led the party since the 2002 death of Jonas Savimbi, who fought against government forces in a 27-year civil war. Abel Chivukuvuku and Paulo Lukamba Gato, two former party leaders, aren’t running after the party barred them in September for accusing Samakuva of clinging to power, Radio Ecclesia reported yesterday. The ban was lifted last month, it said. The winner faces the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, which has ruled Angola since independence from Portugal in 1975.

“The MPLA will probably retain an absolute majority in Parliament, with other smaller opposition parties picking up some extra seats,” Alex Vines, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in London, wrote in a report.

The MPLA, which holds 181 of Parliament’s 220 seats, will meet Dec. 8 to Dec. 10 to select its candidates. Dos Santos said last month he is “available” to run again.

Oil Boom

The government has forecast economic growth of 12.8 percent next year as oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., and BP Plc, drill ultra-deep offshore wells. The government has approximately doubled spending on housing and health in a 4.4 trillion-kwanza ($46.2 billion) budget for 2012.

The National Liberation Front of Angola, or FNLA, the Social Renewal Party, or PRS, and New Democracy, a merger of 6 smaller parties after a court ruling dissolved those with less than 0.5% support in the 2008 municipal elections, will gain seats at the expense of Unita, Vines said.

“Unita seems increasingly unable to influence the domestic agenda,” he said.

Plans to hold a national vote in 2009 were scrapped while the constitution was re-written to remove the presidency from direct elections. Instead, the leader of the political party with the strongest result in the parliamentary elections becomes president.

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