Despite long delays at polling stations and claims of mismanagement, Angolans turned out in large numbers for the war-ravaged nation’s first parliamentary elections in 16 years. The opposition described the process as "extremely flawed".
Despite long delays at polling stations and claims of mismanagement, Angolans turned out in large numbers Friday to vote in the war-ravaged nation’s first parliamentary elections in 16 years.
While the ruling party, the leftist Popular Movement for the Total Liberation of Angola (MPLA), was expected to extend its hold on power of more than three decades, the vote is widely viewed as an important step on the path toward the democratization of Angola and a sign of recovery from a 27-year-long civil war that ended in 2002.
About eight million people, nearly half of the country's population, registered to vote.
"It's a terribly important election for a terribly important African country," said FRANCE 24's regional correspondent Alex Duval Smith, reporting from the capital, Luanda, adding that oil revenues had made Angola one of the world's fastest-growing economies.
But despite a vast amount having been spent on state-of-the-art electronic equipment in order to ensure a smooth election, long queues formed outside polling stations in Luanda early Friday.
"What we have seen, in the three polling stations we have visited in Luanda, is a disaster. They have not started voting yet. They did not prepare," EU observer mission chief Luisa Morgantini said, according to AFP.
A national holiday was declared so that voters could cast their ballot, but Morgantini said many polling stations did not even have a list of voters.
Biometric information and high-tech voting equipment
The head of Angola's electoral commission acknowledged there were problems with the vote but promised action had been taken.
According to France 24 correspondents in the capital, the delays did not deter voters. “People were a bit concerned at the bad start, but now I think everything’s in order and I hear from the rest of the country voting’s proceeding very, very peacefully”, explained Alex Duvall Smith.
"Angolans have waited for 16 years to cast their vote, they don't mind waiting for another hour or two," FRANCE 24 correspondent Caroline Dumay reported from Luanda.
Duvall Smith reported that the Angolan government's "showcase election" was one of the most modern she'd seen.
"A fortune has been spent on making it very, very slick so that Angola can look like a modern evolving democracy," she said via telephone.
"Many people have voting cards that contain biometric information and a very high-tech computerized system has been set up for counting votes," she added.
“What happened earlier this morning was that lots of election materials haven’t been delivered, so people were queuing outside polling stations, which opened at 7 but didn’t really get underway until about 10.
"Extremely flawed elections"
The election is pitting the same two sides that fought elections 16 years ago against the other.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos's MPLA, in power since 1979, is expected to win the election against a poorly funded opposition.
Dos Santos' party is betting on a two-thirds majority in the 220-seat parliament, enabling them to make far-reaching changes to the constitution.
Opposition leader Isaias Samakuva, Friday evening, accused the government of staging an "extremely flawed" election, stopping short of calling for a re-run.
The MPLA has been criticized for allegedly benefiting from massive state funding and media coverage, a claim backed by Human Rights Groups.
Official results are not expected for at least a week. Angola is due to hold presidential elections between May and August 2009.
Date created : 2008-09-05