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Angola: Unita claims poll is in chaos

Augusto Joao tutted at the radio as it played yet another repeat of a speech made by long-serving president José Eduardo dos Santos.

"We don't want to hear from this guy anymore," he said. "We are sick of him, we want change. "I voted for the MPLA in 2008, but I know now that it was a wasted vote and this time I will be backing Unita."

Like many of his peers, the 23-year-old is trapped doing a low-paid casual job that only just pays his rent and has few prospects.

"I apply for jobs all the time, but I am rejected because I do not have a degree, but I cannot afford to go to university to get qualifications," he sighed.

"I know the country is changing and growing, but I don't feel part of it and that makes me very sad. This is not what my parents and grandparents fought for."

Computer science student William Chingongo is equally disillusioned with the MPLA government. The 20-year-old, who is voting in this election for the first time, said he would support the newly formed Casa-CE in the election scheduled for August 31.

"People want change. We want a better life, decent education in our schools, food for everyone, medicine in our hospitals and proper housing.

"If they don't improve the conditions for the young people, it is going to create a lot of problems in the future," Chingongo said.

But for all the dissenting voices, there are still many who believe the MPLA offers the best path for the country.

Tens of thousands of colourfully dressed and high-spirited supporters turned out to see Dos Santos deliver his final campaign speech on Wednesday.

"We won't win 82% this time, we'll win 100%," Edgar Neto boasted between slurps of beer as he made his way into the main arena.

The 23-year-old IT worker said: "You can see how many Angolans have come today to see our president. He is the most popular leader and the MPLA is the most popular party."

Elena Alberto agreed. "We've already won. Victory is certain," she said, shaking off the criticism of Dos Santos's 33-year tenure.

"The president may have been in power for a long time, but while he is still making the right changes to the country I don't think it is an issue," the 35-year-old said.

Organised fairly
She and others dismissed allegations of fraud at the electoral commission and said the opposition was talking of problems to excuse their lack of votes.

Unita, however, is adamant that the polls are not being organised fairly and, late on Wednesday, party leader Isaías Samakuva told reporters he was demanding an urgent meeting with Dos Santos.

Party spokesperson Alcides Sakala said: "The whole process is in ­disarray. It is a complete mess and there is no way the election can be fair and transparent with conditions as they are.

"We want to take part in the election, but only if it is held in terms of the law and that is why we have called for this meeting with Mr Dos Santos."

The electoral commission has repeatedly denied any wrong-doing and Dos Santos himself has dismissed the allegations, saying his party is too big to need to cheat.

At the time of going to press, it was unclear whether Unita would be granted a meeting with the president and what the outcome of any discussions might be.

Human rights activist Sizaltina Cutaia told the Mail & Guardian: "Right now, the only certainty we have is uncertainty. We don't really know what is going to happen.

"People are very concerned about how things are being organised and, if Unita's concerns are not addressed, many will not accept the results and we could have street demonstrations."

Voting takes place on August 31 and the final results are expected to be known by September 3.



Those in the running

The ruling MPLA, the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, a ­former liberation ally of the ANC, claimed leadership of ­independent Angola in 1975 and has ruled ever since.

It is led by José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979 following the death of former president Agostinho Neto, although he has never ­formally been elected.

With incumbency on its side and a seemingly ­bottomless campaign budget being ­managed by the same team of Brazilians who ran President Dilma Rousseff's campaign in 2010, the MPLA should have no trouble winning the vote.

It has control of nearly all the country's media, which is full of praise for government ­achievements and the ­president. It also has what has been described as a '"firm hand" on the electoral processes to ensure everything goes to plan behind the scenes.

Campaigning on a ticket of continuity, the MPLA, in a clear response to mounting criticism about wealth disparities, is promising a stronger economy with more evenly shared wealth.

Unita, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola, is fighting back from its hammering in 2008 when it lost 54 seats and appeared to be on a slow train to irrelevance. The decision in March by stalwart Abel Chivukuvuku to leave to start his own party was also a low point, but the party seems to be bouncing back and is capitalising on the high levels of discontentment in the country.

Its manifesto is based on what the MPLA government has not achieved, with a strong focus on reducing poverty, improving basic services and fighting corruption. Its dogged challenge to the electoral commission has earned Isaías Samakuva's party new respect, especially among youthful protestors and civil society groups.

The newly formed Convergencia Ampla de Salvação de Angola (Casa-CE) has created a new dynamic in Angola's previously binary political scene. Led by the charismatic Abel Chivukuvuku,  Casa-CE claims to offer a "third way" to voters and, despite its infancy, has run a ­comprehensive campaign with national reach. The party is calling for more to be done to diversify Angola's oil-­dominated ­economy and tackle corruption.

Other parties that may retain seats in Parliament are the Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA), one of Angola's original liberation movements, the Partido de Renovação Social (PRS), and Nova Democracia (ND).

The Partido Popular para o Desenvolvimento (Papod), Frente Unida para Mudança de Angola (Fuma) and the Conselho Político da Oposição (CPO) are not expected to win places in the National Assembly.  

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