Early results in Angola indicate ruling party lead

Other News Materials 8 September 2008 01:19 (UTC +04:00)

Partial vote results released Sunday indicate Angola's ruling party is well ahead of a former rebel group in parliamentary elections.

The trend was unsurprising, given the stranglehold President Eduardo dos Santos's party has had on politics since independence from Portugal in 1975.

Speculation before the vote on Friday and Saturday had focused less on whether his Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola would win than on whether the party would capture the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution.

The final tally was expected Monday.

As of Sunday night, some 3.5 million votes had been counted, but election officials could not say how many of the country's 8 million registered voters had cast ballots in an election marred by organizational problems.

They said the partial result indicated the ruling party ї known as the MPLA for the initials of its name in Portuguese ї had more than 80 percent of the vote, while the former rebel movement known as UNITA had about 10 percent. The rest was divided among several smaller opposition parties.

UNITA appeared to be losing ground even in its traditional strongholds, such as Bie, the birthplace of its late founder Jonas Savimbi.

The MPLA went into the election with 125 of parliament's 220 seats. UNITA had 70.

The organizational problems forced officials to extend voting through the night Friday and all of Saturday in the capital, Luanda, to accommodate thousands who had been unable to vote because of shortages of ballot papers, absent polling station attendants and other problems.

Observers from the Pan-African Parliament, affiliated with the African Union, gave the elections the lukewarm endorsement of "credible" Sunday. The group expressed concern that the ruling party had misused the media during the campaign, said other parties had insufficient campaign funding and called voter education insufficient.

The last time Angola held elections was in 1992, during a break in civil war that started in 1975 and ended in 2002, when the army killed Savimbi. Fighting broke out again after the 1992 vote as UNITA refused to accept results showing it had lost.

On Sunday, UNITA leader Isaias Samakuva pledged that his party was committed to peace, "regardless of the election results." UNITA has called for voting to be held again in the capital because of the problems.

Presidential elections expected next year will be key, as most power in Angola rests with the executive. Dos Santos, in power since 1979, was expected to run again.

Dos Santos' once-Marxist MPLA is accused by international human rights groups of corruption and mismanagement. It campaigned on promises to keep transforming a nation destroyed by civil war.

Oil output is projected to surpass 2 million barrels a day next year and increase by 90 percent from 2005 levels by 2010, according to conservative estimates of the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF says that would double government revenues, even if oil prices fall, AP reported.