Angolan poll shows SADC has come of age

SADC has once again showed the rest of the continent and the world that it has come of age when it comes to organising and managing elections. This is shown by the recent elections in Angola where millions of voters on 23 August went to the polls in historic general elections in which they decided to extend the MPLA’s 42-year rule with five more years. Angola became the second SADC country in less than two months, after Lesotho in June, to successfully conduct elections and the fact that the polls have been described as free and fair by the regional body as well as observers from elsewhere around the world shows that the region democratic processes are strengthening.

Now the people of the oil-rich former Portuguese colony expect a smooth transition as the incumbent, Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979 will handover power to his successor, João Lourenço, who stood for the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and defeated the opposition which comprised of the former rebel movement, Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and a coalition of opposition parties, CASA-CE. According to results released last week, 61.1 percent of the electorate voted for the MPLA, UNITA came second with 26, 71 percent, followed by the CASA-CE coalition with 9.46 percent. We commend the people of Angola for the peaceful election which puts another feather in SADC’s cap.

We also commend Angola for abiding by its electoral laws as well as the SADC Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. About 5.9 million or 63, 74 percent out of 9.3 million registered voters cast their votes in the general elections. According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) the parliamentary elections took place under the keen eyes of about 1, 440 observers, of which 1 200 were from international institutions. The CNE gave the elections a clean bill of health describing them as free, fair and conducted in accordance with the electoral laws of the country.

In its assessment, the SADC Election Observation Mission that was led by Augustine Mahiga, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation of Tanzania, noted the pre-election and the election phases of the process were evidently fair, free and transparent.

Mahiga acknowledged the positive electoral reforms ushered in by the Angolan Constitution of 2010 which include term limits on the Presidency, establishment of an independent electoral commission and the implementation of the Electoral Code of Conduct. He further noted that all contesting political parties had received equal financing from the State to assist with their campaigns.

The head of the Observation Mission of the Forum of Electoral Commissions of the SADC Countries (ECF-SADC) António Chipanga congratulated Angolan voters for exercising their rights in an orderly manner. Former president of Sao Tome & Principe, Miguel Trovoada, who headed the observation mission for the Community of Portuguese Language Countries highlighted the electoral capacity demonstrated by the CNE in the organisation of the electoral process, as well as the competency of polling officials in the clarification of the voters. The Economic Community of Central African States headed by Mangral Bante observed that the opening and closing of the voting times complied with the set timeframe, and political parties were represented at most voting stations. While the opposition, as is expected in an election of that nature, has cried foul, we expect the political leaders in Angola to find each other and put their shoulders to wheel and ensure development for the benefit of their people.

They now need to focus on revitalizing their economy and diversity it, now that their cash cow – oil – has not been performing well in recent months. The country needs to look at and revive other sectors so as to rejuvenate the economy. As we reported last week, Angola is faced with a host of developmental and social challenges, with endemic corruption, and high level of poverty among the ordinary citizens. Angola, the second largest oil producer after Nigeria, and a member of OPEC (Organiaation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) took a heavy blow after oil prices fell from over $100 per barrel in 2014 to the current level of about $40.

For the past two years, the country has experienced an economic crisis due to the oil price crash. Inflation is hovering around 45 percent and economic growth was practically zero in 2016. According to the World Bank, Angola’s GDP grew by 2.8 percent in 2015, down from 4.8 percent in 2014, mostly as a result of the drop in oil prices. It said the decline in international crude oil prices has had a substantial impact on budget balances.

The global lender further noted that the average price for Angolan crude was $104 in the third quarter of 2014, declining to $85 in the fourth quarter. And the prices continued to drop in 2015 with the average oil price at $52, and dropped even further in early 2016, averaging $30 in the first two months of the year. Oil exports in the last 10 years accounted on average for 97% of Angolan exports, said the World Bank. In 2014 and in 2015, the share of oil in total export remained around the same level. Oil exports brought in $60.2 billion in revenues to the country in 2014. In 2015, foreign exchange inflows generated by oil exports was at $33.4 billion, a 44.5 percent decline in relation to the same period the previous year. Now that the election is out of the way, we urge the new rulers in Angola to find ways of reviving their economy and look at other sectors like mining, agriculture and manufacturing.

A few decades ago, the country was gripped in civil war which crippled key infrastructure but the silencing of the guns had seen it back on the path of development, thanks to the oil wealth. But with falling oil prices, we believe there are other sectors which can help in reviving the economy and key ingredient – peace and stability – is there for development to take place.

September 2017
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