By Innocent Gore
Angola is generally prepared to hold elections on 23 August, the head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the country’s polls, Dr Susan Alphonce Kolimba, has said.
Angolans go to the polls next week to choose a new president as incumbent, Eduardo dos Santos, has indicated his intention to step down after 38 years in power. The country will also choose new parliamentarians.
Dos Santos was expected to bid farewell to regional leaders at the 37th SADC Summit in Pretoria, South Africa, at the weekend.
His ruling MPLA party has chosen Defence Minister João Lourenço as its presidential candidate. He will square off against Isaías Samakuva of the former rebel movement, UNITA, Abel Chivukuvuku of the coalition, CASA-CE, and candidates from other smaller opposition parties in the country.
Speaking at the official launch of the SEOM in Luanda, Dr Kolimba, who is Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, said the mission had noted that the 2017 Angolan general elections would be contested within the existing legal electoral framework.
SADC is deploying 70 observers from nine Member States to 14 of Angola’s 18 provinces namely Bie, Bengo, Benguela, Cabinda, Cunene, Cuanza-Norte, Cuanza-Sul, Huambo, Huila, Luanda, Lunda Norte, Malanje, Moxico and Zaire.
The observers have been drawn from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Dr Kolimba said the SEOM’s mission to Angola was at the invitation of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), which runs elections in the country.
“As you are aware, election observation has become a tradition in the region and is in line with our obligations in the SADC Treaty; the provisions of the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).
“These strategic policy instruments enjoin us to collectively work toward the realisation of our vision of a shared future, defined by the consolidation of democracy in an environment occasioned by peace and security,” she said.
Angola’s legal electoral framework comprises the 2010 constitution, as well as the electoral, National Electoral Commission (CNE), voter registration, political parties, political party funding, and election observation laws.
In addition, there is an electoral code of conduct which regulates the activities of electoral participants who among others comprise political parties or party coalitions, candidates, members and supporters of political parties.
Dr Kolimba said: “Informed by these inter-related regional and national frameworks, the SADC Electoral Observation Mission will assess the conduct of the elections against a set of central principles stipulated in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections such as full participation of the citizens in the political process, freedom of association, political tolerance, equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media, equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for, independence of the judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions, civic and voter education, acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties as proclaimed to have been free and fair by the competent Electoral Commission in accordance with the law of the land, and challenge of the election results as provided for in the law.”
She told delegates at the SEOM launch, who included representatives of CNE, heads and representatives of diplomatic missions accredited to Angola, representatives of political parties, members of civil society, and the media, that the mission would observe the elections in accordance with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections of 2015.
Dr Kolimba said that in order to foster peace and security and enhance the process of integration, it was important to institutionalise and strengthen Member State’s capacity to manage their democratic processes in a manner that contributed to stability and the improvement of the general welfare of citizens.
The head of mission said that in line with the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, the SEOM was preceded by the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) Pre-Election Goodwill Mission from 26-30 June 2017, whose aim was to assess the state of preparedness of the CNE and the country in general, to hold the 23 August General Elections.
The SEAC Mission was followed by the arrival of the main Short Term Electoral Observation Mission on 9 August 2017, and the Long Term Election Observation Mission which is scheduled to operate from 25-30 August 2017.
Angolan electoral stakeholders attending the launch were assured that the SEOM would always strive for impartiality and the promotion of Member State’s adherence to the 2015 revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as well as observe the national laws and regulations of Angola.
“We are, therefore, reliably informed by the SADC Electoral Advisory Council Mission, that the National Electoral Commission and the relevant stakeholders in the Republic of Angola have taken necessary measures to ensure that the Principles for Conducting Democratic Elections as outlined in the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines
Governing Democratic Elections, are observed.
“Thus far, myself, and the distinguished Members of the Organ Troika and SEAC, have had the opportunity to meet a broad range of stakeholders, who among others, included political parties, the National Electoral Commission, the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court, Ministry of Territorial Administration and National Police of Angola to better understand the political context and management of the electoral process leading up to the voting day on 23 August 2017.
“Further engagement with other electoral stakeholders will continue until the closure of the mission,” Dr Kolimba said.
The mission was expected to release it preliminary statement on the elections in Luanda on 25 August.