April 1, 2005

Stalemate in parliament over voter registration

Fundamental differences continue to cause delay in adopting the package of legislation required for holding national elections in September 2006. One of the key issues is who runs the elections: should it be organised by a state body - as put forward by the ruling MPLA; or should it be organised by a politicised body based on representatives from political parties and civil society groups - as argued by the main opposition UNITA.
The Bill on Electoral Registration was debated in the Angolan parliament, the National Assembly, in March. UNITA argued that an Independent National Electoral Council, composed of representatives from political parties and civil society, should organise and conduct the registration process, because the MPLA has been so closely intertwined with the state since independence in 1975. However, the MPLA argued that registration should be an administrative task carried out by the state, through the Ministry of Territorial Administration, and that if there is to be an Independent National Electoral Council it should be an independent rather than partisan body. A third position was put forward by Lindo Bernardo Tito, of the small opposition party PRS, who argued that the registration should be carried out by the state, but then subject to review by political parties. His position was supported by Analia de Vitoria Pereira of the PLD party. These issues should have been dealt with by the Constitutional Commission, but opposition parties led by former rebels UNITA walked out of the Commission in May 2004. Now, with the beginning of the dry season, there is a window of around seven months to begin the registration process before the rainy season will make many roads impassable. The Civil Opposition Parties (POC), a grouping of small political parties that plan to stand in the 2006 elections, have also come out in favour of the Independent National Electoral Council running the registration process.
In the meantime, the government has nevertheless already started with the setting up of the structures for processing the register of voters for the elections, despite the delays in the National Assembly. One of the major challenges is that many people do not have identification documents. Some lost these documents as their lives were disrupted by the war that finished in 2002, whilst others were denied access to state administration in areas controlled by the rebel movement UNITA during the war. (Angola Peace Monitor, ACTSA, London)

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