Angola Counts Votes as Dos Santos Seeks to Extend Rule
An initial count from yesterday’s ballot is to be announced in Luanda, the capital of Africa’s second-biggest oil producer, according to Andre Da Silva Neto, chairman of the national election commission and John Billy Tendwa, chairman of SADC’s Electoral Advisory Council.
“It was a credible election because there was no hindrance, violence or intimidation of people trying to exercise their right to vote,” Tendwa said by phone today. “Everything was cool.”
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola is expected to easily win the most seats in the 220-member legislature and earn the right to name the leader of the southwest African nation, according to analysts at Chatham House and Global Insight. The MPLA won 82 percent four years ago in the first election since a 27-year civil war ended in 2002. The last vote for president was a direct ballot in 1992. Dos Santos has led the country for 32 years.
Polls closed by 7:30 p.m. and the process was peaceful and orderly, Neto told reporters late yesterday. Ballot counting was completed at many stations within an hour after they closed, said Tendwa, a political-party registrar from Tanzania.
Voter turnout was low, with just over half of the registered names counted at some polls in Luanda, Tendwa said. Final results will be released by tomorrow or soon after, Tendwa said. Challenges to the outcomes are expected, while violence is unlikely, he said.
“It was peaceful in some places, but that doesn’t mean the elections were credible and transparent because in some polling stations there were no monitors from other political parties,” Elias Isaac, country director for the Open Society Initiative, a pro-democracy group funded by George Soros who visited the polls unofficially, said by phone. His organization was not accredited as monitors by the country’s electoral commission.
Potential voters in the Luanda suburb of Viana encountered confusion and about 5,500 were unable to vote because there weren’t enough officials to run 11 polls, Isaac said. Protests may erupt if the results, when they’re released, show an imbalance in the legislature toward the ruling party, he said.
Public discontent with Dos Santos and the government spilled onto the streets of Luanda this year as mainly young protesters pushed for democracy and an end to corruption.
During the campaign, the MPLA pledged to maintain the stability it credits for spurring an economy that may expand 6.8 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, and promised to ease some of the world’s most severe poverty.
The main opposition party, the former rebel group National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, campaigned about the failure of Angola’s oil wealth, which increased foreign reserves to a record $30.2 billion in June, to cut poverty and unemployment.
Angola pumps about 1.8 million barrels of crude a day, supplying 2.9 percent of U.S. imported oil in May and 16 percent of China’s as of July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Oil producers operating in the country include Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX), BP Plc (BP/) and Total SA. (FP)
Unita leader Isaias Samakuva criticized the conduct of the election and said he may seek court action after voting at a university in Luanda’s south.
“We would like to have a better organized process,” he told reporters yesterday. “The experiences of 1992 and 2008 convinced us that we can do an alternative to this confused process.”
In Luanda province, the country’s most populous, 2,700 Unita vote monitors weren’t accredited, including at the polling station where Samakuva cast his ballot, he said.
“All Unita party agents that were submitted were accredited,” Tendwa said. “It’s probably more to do with the internal organization of the party.”
SADC, the African Union and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries were the only international organizations with monitors. Groups such as Open Society and Human Rights Watch, which criticized the government for intimidation of the opposition and crushing anti-government protests in the past year, were barred from observer status, as were members of some embassies, Isaac said.
Julia Ferreira, a spokeswoman for the national election commission, attributed the lack of accreditations to late submission of documents.
Angola’s oil wealth ensures that the government isn’t too concerned about international criticism of its rights record, said Sebastian Boe, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in London.
“The government is comfortable in the calculation that Angolan oil production precludes significant reprisals or sanctions,” Boe said in an e-mail.
More than half the population of about 19 million is under 18, while 54 percent of the country lived on less than $1.25 a day in 2009, according to United Nations Children’s Fund. Transparency International ranked Angola at 168 of 182 countries in its 2011 corruption index.
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