29. 8. 2008

Historic parliamentary elections ahead

Angolans will vote for a new national assembly on September 5 in the first elections held since 1992 and SA¹s President Thabo Mbeki, still dealing with the aftermath of Zimbabwe¹s contentious polls, has already pronounced the election will be successful.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been travelling the country, seeking to ram home the message to voters that economic growth is coming through the ruling party.

Unita has been concentrating on telling voters that not enough of the country’s wealth is being ploughed into infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas. Unitas main platform is the corruption of the MPLA elite and the gross inequality in wealth. Unita chairman Isaias Samakuva said on August 5 that corruption had become institutionalized and deplored the fact that over 80 percent of the national product was being produced by foreigners and over 90 percent of national wealth was concentrated in the hands of 0.5 percent of the population.

Unita is also giving signs that it might challenge the result of the vote if, as anticipated, it loses. Unita and three other opposition parties – the FpD, the PDP-ANA and FNLA - protested on Tuesday after the announcement that ballot boxes could be removed by the provincial electoral committees for a recount after the vote.

The election was beginning to look like a proper test of the electorates will ten days ahead of the September 5 election, when Luisa Morgantini, head of the EU observer mission, described the campaign climate as calm, both in Luanda and in the provinces. Broadcasting time for the political parties had been respected so far on the state-owned radio and television, she told a press conference in Luanda on August 24.

The US has 40 observers to monitor the poll, which US ambassador Dan Mozena said has “a potential to be a model for the coming elections in Africa”.

In the absence of opinion polls, it is still impossible to predict whether the ruling party will retain an absolute majority. The MPLA may have more difficulty convincing the voters in Luanda and in other cities where the opposition has more opportunities to attack it for corruption and for the large imbalances between the rich and poor.

This said, the trauma of civil war may mean that many Angolans will vote for stability, regardless of their grievances.

If this scenario prevails and if the election takes place peacefully, as all political parties say they wish, Angola may appear one of the most stable countries along the Gulf of Guinea and in Southern Africa. (SouthScan)

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