Angola has been enjoying a taste of the election campaign atmosphere for almost a month now, but the truth is that there is little or nothing happening on the streets of Luanda, the capital city, that could attract the electorate's attention, and since its very first day the campaign has proved to be lukewarm. As the blog Eleição 2008 attests [pt]:
Quase não há campanha nas ruas. Ninguém que chegasse hoje a Angola diria que se está à beira de eleições.
There is virtually no campaigning on the streets. Nobody who sets foot in Angola today would say that we are on the verge of elections.
“Angola is changing for the better” says MPLA advertising. Photo kindly provided by José Manuel Lima da Silva, Flickr user Kool2bBop
The most prominent political parties are UNITA and MPLA and it is possible to see these two political groups’ banners attached to walls, trees, yards, and cars. However, the air time provided on the Public Television of Angola (TPA) demonstrates the profile of all parties and their lack of ability to grab voters. Their arguments are bleak and so are their electoral programs. Nelson Morais [pt] asks when the parties will turn themselves towards people's desires:
Nos últimos dias a imprensa tem comentado que … as eleições que se realizarão no mês de Setembro,não será mais um fiasco…. porque o povo aprendeu com os erros cometidos no passado. Deixo aqui um comentário: será com esta movimentação dos partidos políticos cheios de preocupação para obterem um resultado satisfatório, haverá alguém que está verdadeiramente empenhado em ouvir e procurar ajudar este povo?!!!!
Over the last days, the press has commented that the elections to be held in September will no longer be a total failure… because people have learned from their mistakes of the past. I would add a comment: with all this movement and political parties fully concerned to achieve a satisfactory result, will there be someone who is truly committed to listening and seeking to help these people ?!!!!
Given the expectation generated from the beginning of the election campaign and the seemingly peaceful environment in which people live nowadays, a question springs to mind. What differences are there between the explosive elections of 92 and the voting of later this year? Luísa Rogério, general secretary of the Union of Angolan Journalists and a reporter covering the elections back sixteen years ago, makes the following comparison [pt]:
Não se pode comparar com o ambiente vivido em 1992. A campanha para as eleições de 5 de Setembro já começou e há a impressão que não está a acontecer nada no país, exceptuando uma ou outra bandeira, um ou outro slogan e os espaços que os partidos políticos ocupam na rádio e na televisão.
Em 1992 sentia-se a campanha política não só em Luanda, como no país inteiro. Ficava-se com a impressão que o país vivia em função da campanha e a campanha eleitoral marcava profundamente a vida do cidadão ao contrário do que acontece agora. A actividade dos partidos é quase inexistente, não se vêem grandes manifestações, não se sente o clima de campanha.
You can not compare [today's] with the environment experienced in 1992. The campaign for September 5 elections has already begun and there is the impression that nothing is happening in the country, except one or another flag or slogan and the air time used up by the political parties on radio and television. In 1992 the political campaign was felt not only in Luanda, but in the entire country. There was the impression that the country lived according to the campaign and that the election campaign profoundly marked the citizen's life, contrary to what happens now. There is almost no party activity, there are no big events, we don't feel the campaign climate.
“The sun smiles for everybody” says UNITA advertising. Photo kindly provided by José Manuel Lima da Silva, Flickr user Kool2bBop
In the absence of strong political activity in this election campaign, it may be safe to state that Angola will not repeat the violence of 92. However, some political parties such as UNITA have come forth to say that there is a lack of money to support the planned activities and to denounce intolerance from forces close to the MPLA – the political party in power. The National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) also accused the media of bias saying that they favor the MPLA. Feliciano J.R.Cangüe [pt] agrees and says that the TV and Radio do not “provide a quality service for the Angolan people”:
Todos aqueles que acompanham as notícias de Angola, devem ter ficados horrorizados com festivais de editoriais repugnantes que certos órgãos oficiais vomitaram. Foi uma verdadeira guerra entre Sansão e Golias. A imprensa oficial apontou sua artilharia pesada contra o presidente do maior partido da oposição. Essa gente quer o quê?
All those who follow the news of Angola must have been horrified at the carnival of repugnant editorials that some official bodies have thrown up. It was a real war between Samson and Goliath. The official press pointed their heavy artillery against the president of the largest opposition party. What do these people want?
Having just over two weeks to go to the big day, the most striking moment of democracy may be slipping away almost unnoticed in the Angolan capital. But there are hopes for a good turn out of voters, and, above all, that the elections will bring a better future whatever the result is, as Carlos Lopes dreams:
No décimo terceiro dia, os eleitores continuam a abraçar os partidos que caminham com a corrente da mudança até ao dia do voto, porque a partir do dia 5 de Setembro, a mudança torna-se uma realidade e o povo Angolano irá renascer com a esperança numa vida melhor e digna.
On the thirteenth day [of campaigning], voters continue to embrace those parties that go with the flow of change up to the election day, because from September 5 the change will become reality and the Angolan people will be revived with the hope for a better and dignified life.
“Never give up the fight even if you are too old and tired!”. Photo called Freedom, kindly provided by José Manuel Lima da Silva, Flickr user Kool2bBop
Originally written in Portuguese, translation into English by Paula Góes