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Angola extends polls after opposition cries foul

Latest update : 2008-09-06

Angola’s first election in 16 years has been extended for a second day following widespread delays at polling stations. The poll was heralded as a turning point for the oil-rich nation, but opposition parties say it was flawed.

Watch our correspondents' reports on the election campaigns of the ruling MPLA party and the opposition Unita party

 

 

Angola's first election for 16 years will go into an unscheduled second day on Saturday, the official in charge said after opposition parties had condemned the vote as chaotic and demanded a re-run.

 

Caetano de Sousa, head of the National Electoral Commission, said voting would be extended in the province around the capital Luanda following widespread delays at polling stations on Friday.

 

"All the voting stations, which for logistical problems did not open, will be functioning on Sept. 6," de Sousa told a news conference.

 

It was not clear if the extension would satisfy the opposition UNITA party, which earlier described the poll as a "mess" and said it should be re-held.

 

"The system practically collapsed and we have to do something to recover the process," UNITA leader Isaias Samakuva said, confirming he had asked the commission for a fresh election.

 

Two smaller parties, the PRS and PDP-ANA, which had a handful of seats in the outgoing 220-seat parliament, backed Samakuva's demand.

 

His criticism was also echoed by Ngola Kabangu, the leader of the FNLA opposition party, who told reporters the election had been "extremely flawed." But he stopped short of demanding it be repeated.

 

Earlier, voters and a European Union observer mission complained of disorganisation in the ballot, at which the ruling MPLA party of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was expected to extend its run of more than three decades in power.

 

Long queues formed in Luanda, considered a stronghold of the MPLA, hours before polls opened at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) in the oil-producing southern African state.

 

Scores of polling stations failed to open on time, while others remained closed for several hours after voting began. Elsewhere the voting proceeded normally and some polling stations closed on schedule at 6 p.m. (1700 GMT).

 

CIVIL WAR

 

"This is a mess," said Samakuva, who had accused the MPLA of having an unfair financial and media advantage in the run-up to the election.

 

Authorities said the problems were caused mainly by problems with voter registration lists.

 

Angola wants the election to set an example after violent ballots elsewhere in Africa -- notably in Kenya and Zimbabwe -- and to demonstrate its recovery from decades of civil war that ended in 2002.

 

Angola is Africa's second-biggest oil producer, but two-thirds of its people live on $2 a day and at least 40 percent of the workforce is unemployed.

 

The poll is the first since 1992 and is seen largely as a race between the MPLA and UNITA. Official results are not expected for at least a week, possibly longer.

 

Dos Santos flashed a victory sign as he voted at a Luanda polling station.

 

"It's an historic moment for Angola and the most important thing is that Angola comes out of this big contest the winner," Dos Santos said. "We can provide a great example to the world."

 

Despite accusations he has turned a blind eye to corruption and social ills, Dos Santos, in power since 1979, hopes voters will give the government credit for the country's economic boom.

 

Oil production has more than doubled since the end of the war to about two million barrels per day, helping fuel double-digit economic growth. Angola's gross domestic product grew more than 24 percent in 2007.

 

The country is also enjoying increasing clout on the world stage as the newest member of OPEC and an emerging regional heavyweight in Africa. Angola is the biggest oil exporter to China and has won billions of dollars in Chinese investment.

 

UNITA is pinning its hopes on discontent over the government's failure to dent poverty and high unemployment.

 

 

Date created : 2008-09-06

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