Angolan authorities extended voting in the country’s first postwar election into a second day yesterday after a chaotic start fueled opposition demands for new polls.
With Angolan President President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party expected to extend its grip on power in Africa’s leading oil-producing country, 320 polling stations were to reopen because of problems on the first day, the electoral commission said.
Voter material and equipment was not delivered to many stations, especially in Luanda, and the opposition demanded the election be held again.
Most Angolans reveled in the opportunity to vote for the first time since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002 that claimed 500,000 lives, forming long queues outside polling stations and patiently waiting for hours.
“These elections mean a lot because now people are free. During the war people were not free,” said Ana Lopes, voting in one of Luanda’s many poor neighborhoods.
After the early disruption, the vote improved as they day progressed.
Chief electoral officer Caetano Sousa told a late-night press conference that most polling stations had managed to operate.
“We have been waiting for 16 years [for this vote] and now we won’t have to wait another 16 because elections will happen every four years now,” Maria Bernadeth Fransico, a woman in her fifties, said.
A EU observer mission called the organization of the vote in Luanda a “disaster.”
And before news of the extended voting was announced, the leader of the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Isaias Samakuva, alleged that the electoral process had “collapsed” and demanded a new vote.
“What we want is the cancellation of this election,” said Sindiangani Mbimbi, leader of the Party for Development, Progress and National Alliance of Angola.
“For us, this election has been a political theater … We wanted a credible and peaceful process where all the parties would have equal chances,” Mbimbi said.
While Angola’s new wealth stems from its vast oil and diamond riches, fueling double-digit growth, most of its 17 million people remain mired in poverty, living on less than US$2 a day.
UNITA — whose guerrillas fought Dos Santos’ MPLA — branded the election as unfair before it began and accused the MPLA of misusing state funds and resources for campaigning.
Despite confusion in Luanda, home to more than 20 percent of the 8 million registered voters, it appeared the election went more smoothly in the rest of the country.
Dos Santos, 66, said: “It’s a very important and historical moment.”
“The most important thing for us is that Angola emerges the winner in this great attempt to consolidate democracy,” he said.