Africa

Angola sets next general election date

Estelle Maussion

Angola has set August 31 as the date for elections likely to return President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his ruling MPLA to power.

Angola's President José Eduardo dos Santos. (AFP)
But opposition parties claim voting cannot be free and fair.
 
“The Council of the Republic has pronounced in favour of August 31 2012 as the date of general elections,” the consultative body in the president’s office said in a statement.
 
The polls are almost certain to re-elect Dos Santos, whose 33 years in power make him Africa’s second-longest ruling leader after Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
 
President elections were abolished under a new constitution in 2000 and the leader of the winning party automatically becomes president.
 
Opposition parties last week won a rare victory in the tightly-controlled country when the Supreme Court reversed the appointment of the head of elections, Suzana Ingles, seen as too close to Dos Santos.
 
But the main opposition Unita says the country lacks credible voters lists that would ensure free and fair polling.
 
“Angola has never held a credible election with transparent voters registers in a context of equality between contestants,” to ensure free and fair elections, Unita party chairman Isaias Samakuva said on Tuesday.
 
“It is this line that Angola must cross this year,” said Samakuva, who is heading the former rebel group that battled the government in the civil war.
 
Preparations
But the state council insisted on Wednesday in its statement that “the necessary conditions have been prepared” for the polls, based on the information on voter registers available to the electoral commission.
 
The polls will be only the third in Angola, whose journey from independence from Portugal in 1975 to the continent’s second-biggest oil producer was interrupted by years of civil war which ended only in 2002.
 
The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) won the last election in 2008 with over 81% of the vote and has used its commanding parliamentary majority to pass a raft of new laws including a new constitution which critics say concentrates power in Dos Santos’s hands.
 
The announcement of the election date came a day after the appointment of an interim head of elections to replace Ingles.
 
But a judicial watchdog Justice, the Peace and Democracy Association (AJPD) accused Luanda of manipulating the courts to sack the elections chief as a public relations exercise to spruce up its image ahead of the vote.
 
It called for the participation of all political players “in the electoral process, in a spirit of tolerance and trust, so that the elections take place with transparency and security”. – AFP
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