Angola’s former Marxist ruling party was set to win a national election as it maintained a solid lead over the main opposition after most votes were counted on Thursday amid accusations of fraud. A win for the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) would extend its nearly five decades of continuous rule since independence from Portugal in 1975.
The election commission said on Thursday that with about 86% of the votes counted, the MPLA was ahead with a 52% majority, while their main opposition rivals the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) had 42%. If confirmed, that result would give President Joao Lourenco a second five-year term.
But UNITA, led by Adalberto Costa Junior, dismissed the first results announced by the commission earlier on Thursday as unreliable. Youth in Luanda were angry at the provisional results. The capital voted massively in favour of UNITA, according to the election commission.
“The 500,000 jobs we were promised is a lie… We have nothing,” unemployed Paulo Tomas, 30, shouted as he and other young people found out about the initial results on Thursday. He mirrored the sentiment of many in Angola, where half of the population is poor despite rapid economic growth fuelled by oil exports. The southern African nation is the second biggest producer in the continent.
Lourenco had promised change and broad-based prosperity when he won elections in 2017, but despite some positive results in fighting corruption he has largely not delivered on a pledge to reduce poverty. Investors cheered at the prospect of continued MPLA rule, with Angola’s sovereign dollar bonds gaining on Thursday after first election results were announced.
DISPUTED RESULTS UNITA’s vice-presidential candidate Abel Chivukuvuku told Portuguese radio station TSF that the party was considering contesting the elections result because they do not “correspond to reality”, fuelling fears of post-election violence.
Recent ballots, including the last one in 2017, did not spur widespread violence as MPLA’s lead remained solid, but a report by the Institute for Security Studies said that if an MPLA win is perceived as fraudulent, unrest could follow. UNITA and the MPLA have been rivals since before Angola gained independence from Portugal. The two sides fought a civil war intermittently for over 25 years, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed.
The last, decade-long bout of fighting was triggered in 1992 when UNITA contested election results giving the MPLA a clear majority. That triggered a re-start of the civil war which lasted until the two sides made a peace agreement in 2002. Political analysts saw Wednesday’s election as UNITA’s best-ever chance of victory amid growing anger among young Angolans at the MPLA for being sidelined in profiting from their country’s oil-fuelled booms.
“Voters reacted with a lot of incredulity and disbelief,” Angolan political analyst Claudio Silva told Reuters. He said photos of results sheets taken by voters contradicted the provisional count of the CNE.
Several videos showed angry voters at polling stations complaining that the result sheet was not shared with the public for consultation, a requirement under Angolan law. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.
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