Saturday, December 23, 2006

Angolan Leader Gets Backing For Delay in National Elections

LUANDA 21 December 2006 Sapa-AFP


Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos looked set Thursday to
extend his rule to the 30-year mark after securing agreement to
delay presidential elections, which had been due next year, until

A cross-party committee chaired by dos Santos approved plans for
the first post-civil war legislative elections to take place in
2008 and a presidential vote in 2009 in spite of misgivings from
the main opposition UNITA party.

Both elections had been expected next year but the Council of
the Republic unanimously agreed on a new timeframe on Wednesday, according to a statement from the committee.

"The Council of the Republic unanimously agreed that the
legislative elections would take place between May and August in
2008 and the presidential poll should be held in the following year
in the same period", it said.

Attorney General Augusto Carneiro was quoted by the state Angop
news agency as justifying the delay on the grounds that an ongoing
process to register voters would not be completed until June of
next year.

The new voter roll would then have to be approved by the
electoral commission and allow time for appeals as well as a
subsequent update, he added.

The timeframe will be confirmed by the commission which will
then have to seek formal approval from the president for the
ballots to take place.

If the presidential election does not take place until 2009, it
will mean dos Santos will have ruled for 30 years.

The 64-year-old is already Africa's fourth longest serving ruler
and was at the helm through most of the 27-year civil war that
raged after the former Portuguese colony gained independence in

The president first announced in December 2004 that national
elections would be held in 2006 but the timeline soon slipped to
2007 and a piecemeal voter registration process only started last

It had been thought the parliamentary and presidential elections
would take place simultaneously.

Opposition parties, including the former rebel UNITA (National
Union for the Total Independence for Angola) that fought the Luanda
government until 2002, have consistently accused dos Santos and his Movement for the Liberation of Angola party of trying to cling onto

A UNITA spokesman confirmed the party had backed the new
timeframe but would still wanted presidential elections in 2008.

"If you take into account that the civil war ended in 2002, the
president will have been exercising power without legitimacy for
seven years" by 2009, Adalberto Costa told AFP.

"But the fact that Angola now has a firm date is a positive

Anastacio Finda, secretary of a coalition of several small
opposition parties, also endorsed the new timetable.

"The council's proposal makes sense as we have always said that
the conditions are not in place for the elections to go ahead in
2007," Finda said.

"We must accelerate the demining, we must create the material
and financial conditions to enable all the parties to take part in
the electoral process."

However Joao Kambwela, an academic at Luanda university who
plans to run as an independent in the presidential election,
criticised the delay.

"There is no reason why these elections should be delayed yet
again," said Kambwela.

"The proposal by the council represents only the interests of a
group of parties and does not take into account the interests of
the nation."

The government says it has been logistically impossible to move
faster given the devastation to infrastructure wrought by the war
in which half a million people were killed. To complicate matters
further, an estimated eight million landmines remain dotted around
the country.

Angola's economy is experiencing a boom off the back of
increased oil production which has made it Africa's second largest
producer after Nigeria.

However it remains wracked by poverty with some 70 percent of
the population earning less than a dollar a day.

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