Dos Santos’s MPLA cruises to victory in Angola election

With 85% of the votes counted from Friday's poll, the state election commission said on Sunday that the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, had gained a large majority. The MPLA will control Angola's 220 seat legislature, but the party's margin of victory is down from the 82% that it won in 2008.

The largest opposition party, UNITA, won 18% of the vote, nearly twice its share from 2008. And newcomer party, CASA-CE, gained 5%. Both opposition parties criticised the elections for not being free and fair.

The elections were largely peaceful and relatively well-organised in this former Portuguese colony of 21-million that is Africa's second largest oil producer, according to a diplomatic observer.

"We didn't witness one single case of coercion of intimidation. People voted freely throughout the country," Leonardo Simao, chief of the observing mission of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, or CPLP, told the Associated Press.

He said the turnout of 57% of the 9-million eligible voters was good, particularly among women and youths, and that the voting process went smoothly.

"If there are people who have witnessed wrongdoings or violations of the law, they should use legal procedures to bring forward their grievances," Simao said.

The African Union observers declared the election to be "free, just, transparent and credible," said Pedro Pires, chief of the mission, although he noted that opposition parties did not have equal access to the state media and Angolans living abroad could not vote.

Others were more critical of the election process.

"This was all prepared during the electoral process," said Elias Isaac of the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa. "The only surprise for me is that the ruling party did not get 90%." He said many abstained from voting, and that "the whole system was built to exclude and prevent people from heading to the polls".

On a positive note, Isaac said that "CASA-CE has done very well" for such a new party "especially given the context of a virtual one party system. But real change will only come when the electoral process is managed by independent, critical people," Isaac said.

Friday's elections were Angola's second since the end of the 27-year civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 2002, and the third since independence. On September 20 President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his MPLA party will mark 33 years in power. – Sapa-AP

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