from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA, (CAJ News) – AN election outcome the opposition is disputing will not plunge Angola into a civil war it degenerated into after the most divisive poll 30 years ago.
However, the post-election human rights violations are a red flag as the nation reels from its tightest electoral exercise to date.
Meanwhile, parallels can be drawn between the predicaments of then –president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and current leader, Joao Lourenco, as far as the crisis of legitimacy is concerned.
After the elections in 1992, at the advent of a multiparty system following one-party rule by the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had the ignominy of ruling without the constitutionally-necessary democratic legitimisation.
This followed his failure to win 50 percent of the vote. He secured 49,46 percent of the vote, ahead of the 40,07 percent for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola’s (UNITA’S) Jonas Savimbi.
Savimbi refused to take part in the runoff, arguing the election had neither been free nor fair.
This boycott resumed a civil war that had raged from independence from Portugal in 1975.
Then the longest-running civil war in the continent, it ended in 2002 after Savimbi was killed in combat with government forces. This paved way for peace pact between the two rival parties.
Now, three decades later, Angola is facing its most challenging political stalemate.
While the chances of the Southern African country descending into civil war are remote, there is no denying the arduous task that lies ahead for Lourenco and his governing albeit weakened party, which also lost the capital, Luanda, to the opposition.
MPLA also lost the main oil-producing provinces of Cabinda and Zaire.
The human rights situation is exacerbating. State security personnel, for years an appendage of the governing party, are blamed.
The Omunga civil society groups has alleged a string of kidnappings and detentions of protesters.
Some individuals have allegedly been tortured.
UNITA alleged MPLA supporters attacked its office injuring ten people and burning vehicles. The skirmishes occurred near the western city of Benguela.
The rejection of the results of the August 24 elections by UNITA and the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola – Electoral Coalition (CASA-CE) is the first hurdle.
They contest the outcome announced by the National Electoral Commission (CNE), which confirmed MPLA the winner with 51,17 percent (of the 220 parliamentary seats).
UNITA accumulated 43,95 percent.
This is the best performance by UNITA amid growing dissatisfaction by a majority in the country of 35 million.
Voter apathy – 44,82 percent voted of about 14,4 million voters participated- also mirrored the despondency.
UNITA, which has filed a legal suit, claims the figures released by the CNE smacks of rigging as the official count is contrary to the party’s tally.
Some four national commissioners of CNE have disapproved the result.
“The MPLA did not win the election,” UNITA leader, Adalberto Costa Junior, said in his address, delivered online to the nation.
“We have been at peace for 20 years. We now need to embrace a true democratic rule of law,” the opposition leader added, referring to the two decades of relative stability since the peace pact.
The Constitutional Court on Friday began assessing the complaints by CASA-CNE and UNITA.
Aida Gonçalves, Director of the Technical Advisory and Jurisprudence Office at the court, confirmed.
Upon competition of the process to verify the legitimacy of the complainants, among other steps, the court is scheduled to accept counter allegations within 72 hours of notification.
The rejection of the results is reminiscent of the 2012 poll, whose outcome sparked a court challenge.
MPLA was declared winner with 71,85 percent. UNITA managed 18,67 percent.
However, the Constitutional Court rejected appeals by UNITA and other parties that had alleged irregularities in the election.
This paved way for the swearing-in of dos Santos, who had been in power since 1979.
A similar outcome in the courts is anticipated, which would endorse the poll and pave way for Lourenco to begin his second term.
“Similar to the CNE, the courts are an appendage of the ruling party,” said political commentator, Maico Borba.
He mentioned the appointment of Laurinda Cardoso, a former member of the UNITA central committee, as the head of the Constitutional Court, in 2021.
Rui Verde, legal analyst at Maka Angola, forecast the tussle between the aggrieved political parties and CNE to end up in the Constitutional Court.
Some constitutional amendments made in 2021 were denounced as weakening democracy and tightening the ruling party stranglehold.
Antonio Felipe Augusto, a university lecturer in Luanda, this past weekend stated, “You can’t talk about democracy with (an) autocratic constitution.”
Lourenco’s second term looks likely to be more taxing than the first, following the increased presence of UNITA in parliament.
Pressure will mount after his pledge of an economic miracle turned into a nightmare as inequalities in the continent’s second-largest producer of crude oil persist.
Millions in the south face threats from a climate change-related drought, which is the worst in four decades.
Thousands have fled the food and water scarcity and sought refuge in neighbouring Namibia.
Former defence minister Lourenco has pledged to sustain the fight against state corruption, which was the blueprint of his first term, which began in 2017 after dos Santos’ 38-year reign ended.
The anti-corruption crusade culminated in a fallout between the two men.
Critics and some within the ruling party saw the campaign as a ruse to weaken the influence of the ex-president.
The crusade mainly targeted the dos Santos family, some who remain exiled abroad and did not attend the recent burial of the former head of state.
– CAJ News