Friday, August 10, 2012

Is Angola ready for the elections?

On August 31, Angola will organize parliamentary elections, for the first time since the end of the civil war. For 27 years after Angola became independent from Portugal, the country was revaged by a civil war that made over 300,000 victims. 

The current president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos is in power for 33 years and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) - which is expected to win again - is in power since 1975. During the Cold War, MPLA benefited from the support of Cuba and the Soviet Union. The main opposition is represented by the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) which includes former Army rebels and which is very active in the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Cabinda is an important source of oil for the US and China. Angola is rich in other natural resources, as gold, uranium, diamonds and gas.

In 2001, a young movement was created following the model of the 'Arab spring', but the organizers are usually harassed by the police and the representatives of the security forces - and the so-called 'caenches', muscle men. A new Constitution was adopted in 2010, but the level of application depends at a great extent by the good will of the Santos regime. 

According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, there are a couple of problems that the authorities in Luanda should consider seriously in order to guarantee a free and fair choice. 

The main observations of HRW are:
- the need to limit the political and security forces involvement in harassing media and the political oppositions;
- the need to clarify the situation of organizers of anti-governmental protests that disappeared since March;
- the National Election Commission should guarantee the impartiality of the electoral process.

Even though the results of the elections are predictable, the content of change depends at a great extent of the change taking place till the next elections is hard to predict. 

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