Angola’s ruling party, which has been in power for nearly five decades, looked set to win a national election with a comfortable lead over the main opposition on Thursday, after most votes had been counted. However, the main opposition party has cast doubt on the results issued so far from Wednesday’s voting.
An MPLA win would give President Joao Lourenco a second five-year term and extend his party’s continuous rule since independence from Portugal in 1975. But if the ratios of votes remain as they are, it would also mean an unprecedented loss of the MPLA’s two thirds majority in parliament, forcing it to cooperate with opposition lawmakers for the first time.
The election commission said that with about 86% of the votes counted, the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) was ahead with a 52% majority, while its main opposition rival the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) had 42%. Mihaela Webba, vice-president of the parliamentary group for UNITA – led by presidential hopeful Adalberto Costa Junior – told a news conference on Thursday evening that the party believed it was likely the true victor.
“We probably won,” she said. “We were dismayed … the (election commission), without legal basis, is announcing the provisional results. Election results being announced might not be real ones.” According to UNITA’s count of nearly 40% of results, it had 46.89% of the vote and the MPLA has 47.99%.
The election commission did not immediately respond, but has repeatedly said the election was fair and transparent. The dispute over the counting process has fuelled fears of post-election violence, and some 80,000 police officers are deployed across the country to prevent possible unrest.
The streets have been mostly calm, however, aside from small gatherings in the capital Luanda, which police dispersed with tear gas and beatings. ‘SIGNIFICANT DEFEAT’
Even if UNITA has lost, this was the MPLA’s worst result yet. The ruling party overwhelmingly lost in the capital, Luanda, which party spokesman Rui Falcao described as a “significant defeat” in an interview in Portugal’s Publico newspaper. “The 500,000 jobs we were promised is a lie… We have nothing,” shouted unemployed Luanda resident Paulo Tomas, 30, shortly after the results were announced.
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 that gave the MPLA a clear majority, re-starting a civil war which lasted until government troops killed UNITA’s rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in 2002.
An MPLA spokesperson urged Angolans to await the final result “with serenity”. Lourenco had promised change and broad-based prosperity when he won elections in 2017, but despite a crackdown on corruption he has largely not delivered on a pledge to reduce poverty.
Investors meanwhile viewed the result positively, with Angola’s sovereign dollar bonds gaining on Thursday after first election results were announced. Recent elections, 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.
Angolan political analyst Claudio Silva told Reuters that photos of results sheets taken by voters contradicted the provisional count of the election commission. 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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