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Angolan opposition wants election postponed

Angola's main opposition has called for the 31 August national election to be postponed for a month.

Voters queuing at a voting station. Picture: EWN

LUANDA - Angola's main opposition called on Friday for the 31 August national election to be postponed for a month to allow time to correct a lack of transparency in the poll and violations of the electoral law.

Campaigning for the election, only the second in Africa's No. 2 oil producer since the 27-year civil war ended a decade ago, has been marked by wrangling over transparency. Voters will elect a parliament and the leader of the biggest party will then become president.

Isaias Samakuva, leader of the main opposition UNITA party, told Reuters a combination of "incompetence" at the national elections commission (CNE) and interference from the ruling MPLA party means current preparations will lead to an unfair vote.

His party plans to hold nationwide rallies on Saturday to pressure the CNE into correcting what it says are problems and irregularities with the publication of the electoral roll, supervision of vote counting and transmission of results.

"We want the elections to happen. But if the right conditions are not met, if the CNE needs another couple of weeks or a month, we would prefer that option," he said in an interview.

"We have waited four years, another month to make sure the vote is free and fair would not be a problem."

President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who has been in power for 32 years, has long been criticised by global rights groups and the opposition for avoiding scrutiny, suppressing freedoms, and doing too little to fight widespread poverty and graft.

Still, analysts say he is widely expected to lead his MPLA party to a win at the polls thanks to its vastly superior campaign resources and control over most state media.

The national elections commission has repeatedly denied the opposition's allegations of irregularities and on Thursday accused UNITA of making "unfounded accusations ... that try to trick national and international public opinion".

Dos Santos' MPLA won the civil war against UNITA and then crushed its rivals in a 2008 election by obtaining 82 percent of the vote.

UNITA accused the MPLA of rigging that vote and says the ruling party is planning to do the same again on August 31. Dos Santos has denied the accusations, which he says are designed to excuse the opposition's poor results.

PROMISES TO END POVERTY

Samakuva's party has already lodged several complaints with the CNE about alleged deficiencies in the vote process.

"It is either the result of incompetence, a deliberate desire to base the process on confusion, or someone interfering with the preparations to influence the result. Most probably it's a combination of the three," Samakuva said.

"Our only recourses are the people and the law," he added. "If we fail to persuade the CNE and the results are rigged, then we will use the law to appeal against them."

A senior MPLA leader on Friday called plans for Saturday's protest "political irresponsibility", adding that the ruling party plans to hold its own rally on the same day in response.

In the run-up to the vote, both the MPLA and UNITA have been promising to do more to reduce poverty and inequality. Dos Santos on Wednesday announced plans to invest more than $17 billion in electricity generation by 2016.

According to a constitution approved in 2010, the head of the winning party in a parliamentary election becomes president, without the need for a separate ballot.

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