Unita slams former colonial power over support for rigged elections

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Angolan President and The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and MPLA candidate to the presidency Joao Lourenco hold hands during the closing campaign rally in Luanda, on August 19, 2017.

JOHANNESBURG – While the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) has lauded last Wednesday’s general elections in Angola, the main opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) has said it will fight what it called a rigged election.

Provisional results by Angola’s Electoral Commission (AEC) showed that over 98 percent of votes had been counted, with the ruling People’s Party for the Liberation of Angola’s (MPLA) winning by 61.05 percent and UNITA getting 26.72 percent of the vote, the BBC reported on Monday. The MPLA now has 150 of the 220 parliamentary seats.

In a press release the AUEOM said it considered the elections – which saw MPLA candidate Angola Defence Minister Joao Lourenco take over from former President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos – as an important step towards the consolidation of democracy in the country.

“The AUEOM concludes that the 2017 general elections were generally conducted in line with the national legal framework as well as the international, continental, and regional standards for democratic elections.”

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However, UNITA complained that the results had not been collated properly and by announcing the provisional results the AEC had “committed a gross violation of the law”.

The opposition group lashed out at Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for “prematurely congratulating” Lourenco for becoming president-elect. UNITA said it was amazed and disappointed to hear de Sousa congratulate the new leader.

Portuguese newspaper D Noticias added that activist Nuno Dala sent an open letter to the Portuguese president criticising him for congratulating Lourenco for, what he says are “forged results”.

UNITA said it would not only contest the results in court but further accused the government of manipulating the vote by denying opposition groups access to the media.

“We do not accept these results, not because they show the MPLA in front, but because we don’t think they are true,” said deputy party leader Rafael Massanga Savimbi.

He said Unita had found “substantial differences” between its own tallies at voting stations and those of the electoral commission.

“We are going to the courts,” said Savimbi, son of UNITA founder Jonas Savimbi, whose death in 2002 during the civil war against Dos Santos’s forces paved the way for a ceasefire after 27 years of fighting. “It’s a crime to manipulate or distort the people’s will,” he said.

Meanwhile, electoral disputes aside the country’s first new president in nearly four decades faces a big challenge in addressing the poverty that the majority of the population struggles with – and the glaring gap between the rich elite and the poor. Runaway inflation and high unemployment continue to cripple the country.

In an attempt to address these issues Lourenco plans to develop agriculture, industry, tourism, fisheries, and other branches of the economy.

“This poverty is not because of a drop in oil prices,” opposition lawmaker Manuel Fernandes told the Voice of America (VOA), adding: “It is because of bad governance”.

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Long time government critic and journalist Rafael Marques said Lourenco was in a difficult situation because Dos Santos still controlled much of the nation’s wealth.

“The question is, how is he going to run the country without money, because these individuals who were members of the government and some are living like Dos Santos, they are living with a tight control over the economic assets of the country, which they will not pass on to the new president.”

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