Angola will hold its second multiparty elections since the ending of the civil war in 2002, on the 31 August, 2012. The ruling MPLA and its President José Eduardo dos Santos are expected to win the elections, though not as emphatically as they did in 2008 when they won 82% of the vote. An MPLA win and another five year term will allow the party to consolidate its stranglehold on politics in Angola.
The opposition parties are weak, divided and dominated by the MPLA which has minimised their ability to influence the coming elections. The main opposition UNITA is further weakened by a recent split within the party, which has led to the formation of a new party, CSASA-CE.
The opposition parties argue that the electoral process has not been free and fair. They have been limited to 10 minutes each, per day in the media, while MPLA occupies the remaining 23 hours. There have been irregularities in the electoral process including the compilation and audit of the voter register, vote counting procedures and the proposed personnel to tend the voting stations. With regards to the voter register, UNITA claim that “at least 30 per cent of their cadres have found irregularities on the voter register – either their details are incorrect or they do not appear at all on the list, meaning they are unable to vote.
18 political parties have been barred from contesting the election, including parties such as the FNLA, Partido Popular and Bloco Democratico. UNITA has called for a nationwide protest on 25 August 2012. The protest is to demand that the elections be postponed until all the irregularities are resolved. The opposition accuses the MPLA of trying to rig the elections through these processes. While a peaceful protest is planned, a forceful response by the police could escalate into further unrest. However, it is highly unlikely that the elections will be postponed.
There is little overt election violence, though there are sporadic clashes between militant MPLA and UNITA youths, with UNITA claiming that two of its members died and 10 others were injured in an MPLA attack. Opposition leaders are being intimidated through arrests and the electorate has been intimidated by the deployment of military forces in rural areas for the purposes of “stabilisation”. An interviewee has stated that ‘the military is delivering a simple message: vote for change and we will return to war!’ The MPLA is accused of co-opting local community leaders with cars and tractors in exchange for community votes. ‘The MPLA is giving apartments in the Kilamba Kiaxi housing complex to people working in the government as a reward for loyalty or for votes in the elections.’
In a country with a population of 19 million and a GDP of over US$100 billion in 2011, the rate of poverty is high at 36%, which translates to approximately 7 million people. There is growing dissatisfaction with the MPLA and recent street demonstrations by the war veterans and youth groups demonstrate this. An interviewee stated: “The issue in Angola is no longer about UNITA: it is about poverty, corruption and broken promises.”
While a bright medium-term future is in prospect for Angola, it faces challenges in the political, social, economic, governance, security and foreign policy arenas.