Angola bars European Parliament observers from polls

By Santos Vilola

Luanda – The Angolan government has rejected the European Parliament’s request to send an observer mission to the general elections slated for August 23 because it violates the country’s electoral legislation.

The director for Africa, the Middle East and regional organisations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Joaquim do Espírito Santo, said that the European Parliament intended to “stay longer” in Angola as part of an electoral observation mission, but the Angolan electoral law does not allow that.

According to the electoral law, the observation should be made only during the campaign until the vote. Due to the Angolan government’s refusal to allow it to carry out the pre-election monitoring, the European Parliament was unable to mobilise men and means for electoral observation in the way it intended.

Santo, who was speaking at a press conference, announced that a team of four experts from the European Commission will, however, oversee the electoral process in the coming days, within the framework of the European Union’s diplomatic cooperation with Angola.

The diplomat demanded respect for Angola and the ongoing electoral process. He was responding to Portugal’s Member of the European Parliament Ana Gomes, who accused the Angolan government of impinging on a European Union observer mission, allegedly for “pretending to be inviting” the European bloc, but refusing elementary conditions to the members of the team.

“We are a state and a state cannot worry about speculation, with people saying that it has nothing to do with our electoral process. This process concerns the Angolans, so it is the Angolans who should concern us,” he said.

“The Euro MP Ana Gomes is a member of a partner institution of the Angolan state, we respect her and we hope she also respects this great country and its people,” said Santo.

Last Sunday was the deadline for political parties to nominate their delegates to oversee the voting process at polling stations.

Even after the extension of time, only the MPLA (ruling party), UNITA, the second largest political force, and CASA-CE delivered their lists. The PRS, FNLA and APN parties did not nominate their delegates and therefore would be absent from voting at polling stations.

The deadline for nominating delegates’ lists to oversee the voting process was 23 July, but the election commission had extended the deadline by seven more days to give parties time and allow a broad representation of observers at the polling stations.

Meanwhile, MPLA candidate for president of the republic, João Lourenço, could win the general elections in Angola with 61% of the vote.

This projection is from the first opinion poll on the election by the Jean Piaget Institute in the Benguela province, south-coast of the country, in partnership with the Instituto Sol Nascente do Huambo, central-south of the country, and consulting and technical support of the Centre for the Study of Surveys and Opinions of the Portuguese Catholic University.

The poll shows that Lourenço will reach 36% in the intentions of voting and 60% in the projection of results, and will be able to reach 61% with the distribution of the undecided ones.

The second most votes, according to the poll, will go to Abel Chivukuvuku, from CASA-CE, with 19%, surpassing Isaías Samakuva, from UNITA, with 15%.  Chivukuvuku, according to the poll, would thus be the second-largest political force of the opposition, relegating the historic UNITA party, to third place.

Carlos Pacatolo, coordinator of the survey, says that the study has a margin of error of 1.3 and if one increases the sample, the difference of margin of error would be 0.5, 0.1 or 0.2%.

Reacting to the survey widely publicized in the international press, and not in Angola, because it is not allowed by law, Chivukuvuku said he believes that the place of the coalition is no surprise to anyone, but added that it was far behind CASA-CE’s intention to form a government.

Samakuva said the study did not allow a serious assessment of the Angolans’ intention to vote and said UNITA thus rejects the poll that was first reported by the television channel, Euronews.

Political parties in Angola have been asked to moderate speeches and avoid inciting militants, sympathisers and party followers to be intolerant and violent.

The five political parties — MPLA, UNITA, PRS, FNLA and APN, and the CASA-CE coalition — are campaigning to present voters with their programmes and electoral manifestos.

The parties rely on broadcast times on public radio and television to send their political messages. On Angola’s national radio, each party has 10 minutes in the afternoon to present its proposals to voters. On public television, each party has five minutes in the evening to present its message.

The streets of Luanda, the capital of the country, have presented in recent days a colourful scenario, with banners and posters with faces of candidates from political parties running to be president of the republic.

The MPLA candidate, João Lourenço, began the party’s campaign in Huambo province, in the central-southern region of the country, considered as UNITA bastion, because it is dominated by the Ovimbundu ethnic group, Jonas Savimbi tribe.

Lourenço, who had been in the province during the pre-campaign, reinforced the fight against corruption as one of the party’s challenges.

UNITA has moved its leader, Samakuva, to the municipality of Cacuaco, in Luanda, where he made the party’s “rentrée” in the electoral race, with a proposal for a reform of the state in case of general elections.

CASA-CE chose the country’s second largest electoral centre after Luanda, the province of Huíla, to open the election campaign. CASA-CE, which is competing for the second time in the elections since it was founded by dissident UNITA militants and other opposition parties, will publicly present its government programme and electoral manifesto publicly in the coming days at a rally.

The PRS, FNLA and APN parties are the least expressive among the competitors to the general elections.

The next days of the election campaign, until the wee hours of August 21, must be dominated by the displacement of political party candidates in the interior of the country to spread their messages to voters. August 22 is a day of reflection and it is forbidden for any party to campaign on this date.

The national electoral commission has already started the process of training agents for polling stations.

According to the electoral commission, voters should receive messages from the telephone operators on the mobile phone about where to vote and the number of polling stations at the polling station. The use of this technological mechanism is the same used in the general elections of 2012, to facilitate the voting process.

Last Tuesday, President José Eduardo dos Santos authorised the dismissal from the government of Defence Ministers, João Lourenço, and Territory Administration Minister, Bornito de Sousa.

Lourenço is the MPLA’s candidate for president of the republic and Bornito de Sousa is vice-president of the MPLA.

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