Angola’s main opposition party, UNITA, has conceded defeat in last week’s parliamentary elections, after initially demanding a fresh ballot over allegations of poll irregularities.
The former guerrilla movement said “it was not possible” to say the elections had been free and fair, as voting had been extended for an unscheduled second day after 320 centres across the country failed to open on time on 5 September, and in locations where there had been problems with the supply of ballot papers. UNITA also alleged that people had been allowed to vote without proper identification.
But in a news conference on Monday, held shortly after the national electoral commission had dismissed its complaints, UNITA leader Isaías Samakuva said he accepted the outcome of the poll and praised the incumbent MPLA party, hoping it “governs in the interest of all Angolans”.
“After about 80 percent of valid votes have been counted, despite all that has happened, the leadership of UNITA accepts the results of the elections,” Samakuva said. Other opposition parties echoed UNITA’s acceptance of the outcome of Angola’s first elections in 16 years.
As the counting process continues, the MPLA holds a huge lead, scoring close to 82 percent of the vote to UNITA’s 10 percent. If the MPLA manages to win a two-thirds majority in the 220-seat assembly, it will have the power to change the country’s constitution as it sees fit.
International election observers, while accepting the result, have criticised aspects of the poll. An African Union team said although it was free and fair, the MPLA had benefited from unfair access to the state-dominated media. The European Union noted problems with the organisation of the election, but concluded that people had clearly voted massively for the MPLA.
The US Embassy congratulated Angolans “on their participation in this important step in strengthening their democracy” but noted the procedural problems encountered with the ballot, and hoped valuable lessons would be learnt for Angola’s future polls, beginning with next year’s presidential elections.
Angola, independent in 1975, struggled with 27 years of civil war until a peace agreement was signed with then UNITA rebels in 2002. The oil-rich country is now one of the world’s fastest growing economies.