Doubts An­gola’s elec­tions will be fair

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

LUANDA: Amid fears of elec­toral fraud by the op­po­si­tion and a new era with­out one of Africa’s long­est lead­ers beck­on­ing, the rul­ing Peo­ple’s Move­ment for the Lib­er­a­tion of An­gola (MPLA) looks des­tined to pro­long its more than four decades at the helm of the coun­try.

The con­ti­nent’s third-long­est serv­ing leader, Jose Ed­uardo dos San­tos (aged 74), in power since 1979, is stepping down later next month. With MPLA a dom­i­nant force since an al­most 15-year anti-colo­nial war, his anointed suc­ces­sor and de­fence min­is­ter, Joao Lourenco, 63, is pro­jected to romp to vic­tory at the elec­tions set for Au­gust 23.

Six mil­lion An­golans are set to vote out of a pop­u­la­tion of 25 mil­lion. Close ri­val, Isaías Sa­makuva, 71, of the Na­tional Union for the To­tal In­de­pen­dence of An­gola (Unita), poses the big­gest chal­lenge to Lourenco’s as­cen­sion.

His­tory sug­gests Unita, which fought along­side the MPLA in the war for in­de­pen­dence and then against the MPLA in the en­su­ing civil war, would con­tinue play­ing sec­ond fid­dle. Not to be out­done is Abel Chivukuvu, 59, of the Broad Con­ver­gence for the Sal­va­tion of An­gola – Elec­toral Coali­tion (Casa-CE), which claims a huge sup­port base in the coun­try.

At the last poll held in 2012, the rul­ing party se­cured 71.85% of the vote while Unita man­aged 18.6%. Casa-CE se­cured 6%. An­a­lysts pro­jected Dos San­tos’ party would again emerge vic­to­ri­ous.

“Chances are very high Lourenco of MPLA will romp to vic­tory con­sid­er­ing the rul­ing party has been very much or­gan­ised and for­mi­da­ble,” po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Gil­berto Fer­nan­des said.

En­tre­pre­neur Paulo Mar­ques said the fact MPLA was chang­ing its lead­er­ship would be a huge morale boost. Lourenco said his ad­min­is­tra­tion would pri­ori­tise the fight against cor­rup­tion sti­fling the rapidly grow­ing econ­omy of the min­eral and oil­rich na­tion. How­ever, prepa­ra­tions for the polls have been marred by al­le­ga­tions of vi­o­lence against the op­po­si­tion and muz­zling of press free­dom.

Re­cently, Unita em­barked on protest march in the cap­i­tal de­mand­ing free and fair elec­tions.

Sa­makuva said the party would only ac­cept de­feat if the polls were free and fair.

Rights groups said se­cu­rity forces fre­quently cracked down on pro-democ­racy and hu­man rights ac­tivists, rais­ing doubts about whether the elec­tions will be free and fair .Lourenco has pledged the elec­tions would be cred­i­ble.

JOSE DOS SAN­TOS

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