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Angola: Chaos and hopes mark first election in 16 years

Photo by Flicrk user KaLuany, who voted for the first time last September 05.

At last Angola went to the polls last Friday September 05. The electorate attended the polling stations in an orderly way and provided their votes hoping for a better future for the country. After sixteen years, Angolans had waited for this historic moment with excitement and some fear. Soba L [pt] says voting was as he had always dreamed:

“Esperei por este dia com muita ansiedade e curiosidade pois sabia que era um dia especial para Angola e para os angolanos. Durante muitos anos o nosso dia-a-dia foi marcado pela tristeza da guerra. Uma guerra que ceifava vidas, destruía bens e consumia grande parte dos nossos recursos e energias. Finalmente estamos na presença de um acontecimento histórico. Os angolanos ansiavam desde há muito tempo pela chegada deste momento de paz e certeza no futuro. Um novo cenário já se vislumbra no nosso horizonte. Começamos a sentir os primeiros efeitos benéficos da paz porque ela já se manifesta na sua dimensão humana”.

“I waited for this day with great anxiety and curiosity because I knew it was a special day for Angola and Angolans. For many years our daily lives had been marked by the sadness of war. A war that claimed lives, destroyed property and consumed much of our resources and energy. At last we face a historic event. Angolans have long yearned for the arrival of this moment of peace and certainty in the future. A new scenario is unfolding already in our horizon. We start to feel the first benefits of peace because it has already manifested itself in its human dimension.”

“Due to delays incurred during the first day of voting it was decided to keep a number of polling stations in Luanda open for a second day of voting. UNITA, the main opposition party immediately cried foul”, says Flicrk user Sam.Seyffert on this picture's caption

On the eve of voting life got exciting. Traumatized by the events of 1992, when the the guerrilla war was resumed after the election results were rejected by the Unita leader Jonas Savimbi, Angolans rushed to large shopping areas to buy staple goods, despite appeals made by the government in order to counteract this trend. However, in spite of a few hitches caused by a lack of organization, the election process has had a positive outcome, according to Angola's National Electoral Commission's chairman, Caetano de Sousa. Carlos Lopes [pt] reports on the situation on September 05:

“Apesar de todas as situações anómalas que ocorreram em algumas assembleias de voto, umas que abriram com atrasos de horas de manhã e à tarde, outras que nem sequer abriram, noutras falharam os boletins de voto ou cadernos eleitorais, o presidente da Comissão Nacional Eleitoral (CNE) garantiu que o processo de votação decorreu em todo o país com “normalidade” e observância das regras estabelecidas para as legislativas. Surpreendentemente admitia a possibilidade da divulgação dos primeiros resultados parciais, ao anoitecer. Mas depois lá aceitou os atrasos de abertura de algumas assembleias em Luanda, devido a problemas operacionais e que as coisas iam melhorando com o decorrer do tempo. Para o Dr. Caetano de Sousa, o problema de Luanda é ter muita gente e pouca fluidez no trânsito, algo que todos os luandenses sabem. A solução de recurso que foi encontrada, foi adiantar a hora do fecho das assembleias e com isso, já algumas funcionam com velas porque os conhecidos cortes de energia eléctrica estão a acontecer e alguém esqueceu-se de levar o gerador. Na Huíla e Cabinda, também tiveram algumas assembleias a serem abertas com atraso.”

“Despite all the problems that some polling stations faced, with hours of delays in the opening in the morning in some places while others did not open even in the afternoon, and ballot papers and electoral rolls missing from some places, the chairman of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) said that voting took place with “normality” and in compliance with the rules established by the legislation throughout the country. He surprisingly admitted the possibility of disclosing the first partial results in the evening. But then he admitted the delays in opening some polling stations in Luanda because of logistical problems and said things were improving over time. According to Mr. Caetano de Sousa, Luanda's problem is having a lot of people and poor traffic flow, something all Luandaners know. The solution found was to extend closing hours and for that, some of them are working by candle light because of the known ongoing power cuts and someone having forgotten to bring a power generator. In Huila and Cabinda, there were also some delayed openings of polling stations.”

“Long lines of voters still waiting for the poll booths to open, some since 04:00″, says Flickr user Sam.Seyffert

Due to the problems caused by lack of organization, Luanda was entitled to another voting day. The results will take at least a week to be announced, since the CNE does not have a digital vote counting system. Partial results show that the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) is ahead with 81% of the votes, followed by UNITA with 10%. Blog Mesumajik Uka [pt] makes the following analysis of the electoral results:

“Fomos às urnas e votamos. Escolhemos quem nos merece. Os números falam por si. Houve constrangimentos em Luanda e noutros locais de diversas províncias, como a falta de boletins de voto ou de envelopes para os votos especiais. São constrangimentos que afectaram todas as formações concorrentes e não apenas uns. Por isso se houve lisura houve para todos. Quem está de parabéns somos nós, os angolanos que dissemos sim ao voto massivo. O MPLA tem uma maioria absoluta do seu trabalho governativo e do convencimento do eleitorado ao longo da campanha política. O grande perdedor destas eleições é sobretudo a UNITA que fica com menos de 50 deputados em relação à cessante legislatura. Perdeu também o PLD e todos os demais partidos que ficam abaixo dos resultados de 1992.”

“We went to the polls and voted. We chose who deserves us. The numbers speak for themselves. There were constraints in Luanda and in various provinces elsewhere, such as a lack of ballots or envelopes for special votes*. These are constraints that have affected all the candidates, not just some of them. Therefore if it was fair, it was fair for all. The people are the ones to be congratulated, us Angolans who said yes to massive voting. The MPLA has an absolute majority because of the work of the government and for convincing the electorate during the political campaign. The UNITA is a particularly big loser in these elections, and will have less than 50 members compared to the last legislature. The PLD has also lost out and so have all other parties which are below the 1992 results.”

[* Translator's note: There were “special” ballot boxes, created for voters who registered according to their identity documents instead of where they lived, including some millions who fled the countryside during the 27‑year civil war to Luanda.]

The UNITA has publicly challenged the results and lodged a counting contestation with the National Electoral Commission (CNE). Their attitude has brought some fear to Angolans. However, Isaias Samakuva, UNITA's leader, last night admitted their defeat in the parliamentary elections. He declared that “it is not about contesting the election results but seeking the fairness and integrity of the process. Facts indicate that the final results of this election do not reflect the will expressed in the polls. Whatever the outcome, Angolans have gained greater awareness and life goes on”.

The will was huge… “but conditions in the polling stations were, in general, terrible”, photo by Flickr user Kool2bBop.

With more than 70 percent of the electoral colleges processed by now and the main Angolan political group seemingly set to be elected by overwhelming majority, Angola Sempre [pt] wonders what percentage of absenteeism there was and why it has not been announced. He outlines the challenges ahead:

“Cabe a árdua tarefa ao Presidente do MPLA, de «escolher a dedo», os melhores entre os melhores, que governarão o país nos próximos quatro anos.
A «luta para o poleiro» está do lado do MPLA e os outros partidos com assento na Assembleia Nacional, vão « assistir de bancada» o bom ou mau desempenho do governo do MPLA, apresentando novas proposta de lei, que consideram mais adequadas a melhoria da vida dos Angolanos, cabendo ao MPLA votá-las favoravelmente ou não, ou fazendo pior, meter na gaveta, como várias vezes fez aos projectos de Lei da UNITA. Mas também há uma nobre tarefa da oposição na Assembleia Nacional, que é o de fiscalizar a acção do governo do MPLA. Os Angolanos têm esperança que a sua vida vai ser mais digna, porque se isso não acontecer, no próximo pleito eleitoral, e não vai demorar muito, irá ser feito um balanço, cujo resultado vai ser apresentado no voto do eleitor.”

“It is a difficult task for the MPLA President, to “cherry-pick” the best among the best, who will govern the country over the next four years.
The ‘fight for the perch’ is on the MPLA's side and the other parties with National Assembly seats, will “assist from the bench” an MPLA government's good or bad performance, presenting new bills which they consider more appropriate to improve Angolans’ lives, having the MPLA in place to approve them or not, or worse, archive them, as they did several times to UNITA's bills. But there is also the noble task of opposition in the National Assembly, which is to supervise the MPLA's government. Angolans hope that their lives will be more dignified, because if not, in the next elections, and these will not take long [to come], there will be an appraisal whose outcome will be made in the vote.”

“MPLA's Samba Municipal office in campaign style”, photo and caption by Flicrk user Sam.Seyffert

Originally written in Portuguese, translation into English by Paula Góes

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