February 16, 2006

Uncertainty increases over election date

As Angolans await their first peacetime elections, the chances of the country's first ballot in more than a decade happening this year are growing increasingly slim. With electoral preparations such as voter registration moving at a slow pace, many observers had started to seriously doubt whether a 2006 poll was achievable. That view was given extra credence by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos when he said in January, that the condition of the country's infrastructure should be improved prior to any vote. "The party must encourage the government to conclude its programme of rehabilitation of primary road and rail links in 2007 to that participation by citizens in the next polls is substantial," Dos Santos said.

The president's comments - his first hint that elections could be postponed beyond 2006 - prompted groans among opposition parties, political analysts and Angolans anxious to see a poll take place as soon as possible. "The president's comments have cast a shadow over whether elections will even be held next year," said one international aid worker. "We are slightly further on than a year ago in that we have an election law, but without a calendar to work towards there is an enormous feeling of uncertainty," the aid worker added.

In genereal, holding elections are no easy task. The civil war left roads, railways and bridges in tatters, many areas are littered with landmines and a large chunk of the country's estimated 13 million people have no identity documents. (IRIN)

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