- The Angolan government has announced that the country finally is ready to hold its first elections since 1992. Polls are slated for 5 September this year. The opposition, centred on the ex-guerrilla group Unita, has accepted the ex-Marxist MPLA party of President José Eduardo dos Santos to stay in power since the end of civil war in 2002.
The holding of legislative elections in September was announced by President dos Santos today after a cabinet meeting under his auspices had approved of the move. The Angolan state leader said all preparations for a successful election now were in place, after the polls had been postponed several times since their original scheduling for 2006.
Cabinet spokesman Domingos Cajama in a statement also emphasised that everything now was in place to hold elections. The registration of voters had been finalised, the electoral law was in place and elections were now announced in accordance with the constitution. Mr Cajama now recommended the setting up of sufficient number of polling stations throughout the vast nation.
To make sure elections were free and fair, chairman of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), Caetano de Sousa, said he was now in contact with police nation-wide to assure the polls were managed correctly. An election training course for police officers was inaugurated by Mr de Sousa today. "We have to find an informed police force that knows the electoral legislation package, which will help in our mission of educating the people for a safe, free and fair development of the electoral process," Mr de Soussa was quoted as saying by government media.
Elections are set to become a contest between President dos Santos' ruling Socialist MPLA and the heirs of the former Unita-fighters, grouped in the conservative Democratic Renovation Party (PDR). While the MPLA has ruled the country in an authoritarian way since independence, the last years have seen Angola's economy booming faster than any other African country. The positive economic development is expected to result in renewed popular confidence in the MPLA.
The opposition has so far agreed to wait for new elections, given the ex-fighters' low popularity after decades of civil war. The PDR has been allowed to be close to the corridors of power and to spend the time to build a real political opposition to the MPLA, distancing itself from its violent past.
However, impatience to contest in regular elections has grown among opposition members. With the MPLA's continued grip on power, the PDR is fearing that polls may not be as free and fair as envisaged by the Electoral Commission. The opposition's Luís dos Passos has pointed out that there were inconsistencies in the campaign financing of political parties, further saying the type of documentation to be delivered to the Supreme Court to enable political parties to participate in the elections needed urgent clarification.
The September polls will be the first elections held in Angola since 1992, and the second in the country's history. The 1992 polls came as a result of a negotiated peace between MPLA and Unita and were won by President dos Santos and his party. The results however came as a surprise to Unita, which decided to return to the bush to carrying on its warfare. This experience strongly contributed to the non-holding of elections after the 2002 peace.
While the September polls will choose representatives for the Luanda parliament, President dos Santos still is not up for elections. Presidential polls are expected in 2009, with the incumbent indicating he will want to run for a new term in office. The now 68-year-old took office in 1979, after the death of Angola's first president, Agostinho Neto.
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