September 14, 2004

Election timetable proposed

Angola's ruling party, the MPLA, has put forward a detailed timetable culminating in presidential and parliamentary elections in September 2006.
The largest opposition party, UNITA, had objected to the lack of a timetable, and since 12 May had been boycotting the Angolan parliament's Constitutional Commission, the body that will pave the way for the country's next elections. UNITA has now indicated that it will rejoin the Constitutional Commission, and will put forward its own electoral timetable in parliament. This is likely to involve a much shorter timeline.
UNITA had argued that there is no need for a new constitution to be adopted before elections and that these can be held in 2005. However, UNITA has also now warned that it will not take part in preparations for elections unless there is an "independent electoral commission". Speaking to the UN news agency IRIN on 2 September, UNITA spokesperson Adalberto da Costa Junior warned that "opposition parties will not participate in the electoral preparations without an independent commission". In UNITA's view, an independent commission should include representatives from all parties, as well as civil society and the church.
The demand may reflect a strategy of establishing preconditions on the process and prolonging disagreement, with UNITA presenting itself as a champion of democracy. The MPLA has been equally keen to be seen to adopt a consensual approach to electoral matters, and to secure a legitimate process. Under the MPLA proposal, the composition of an electoral commission would be subject to parliamentary control within the process of drafting and approving a new Electoral Law.
The timetable adopted by the MPLA Political Bureau on 20 August calls for the drafting and adoption of a new Constitution and electoral laws by May 2005; preparation for the elections to finish by October 2005; appointment of members of the National Electoral Council by October 2005; setting of the exact date for elections by President dos Santos by June 2006; approval of candidates by the Supreme Court by June 2006; provision of broadcasting space to parties and candidates in July 2006; electoral campaign to take place in August 2006; and for elections to be held in September 2006.
The last elections held in Angola were in 1992, but UNITA rejected the results and returned to war. Lasting peace only arrived after the death in combat of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in February 2002. UNITA currently has 70 members in the National Assembly and four cabinet posts in the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation.
Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos on 28 August called for political parties and individual politicians to prepare themselves to accept the election results. Speaking at a ceremony to mark his 62nd birthday, he stated that "General elections mean alternation, or at least renewal in public posts. At Governmental level there will certainly be changes, there will be other ministers, whether there is alternation or not". (Angola Peace Monitor, London)

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