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Angolan Ruling Party Heading for Landslide Victory in Legislation Elections

In Angola, the ruling MPLA party is headed for a landslide victory in Friday's legislative elections. The vote count so far gives it more than 80 percent, with the opposition party, UNITA, getting only about 10.5 percent.

VOA correspondent Scott Bob, who's in the Angolan capital, Luanda, following the country's first elections in 16 years, spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

"The European Commission…has delivered its preliminary observation, which coincides for the most part with those of the African regional organizations and the Angola domestic observers. (The assessment was) that despite mostly, primarily organizational, procedural, logistical, technical problems…the elections basically were transparent and overall the will of the people was respected," he says.

One European observer, Richard Howitt, says that he personally observed intimidation of voters in Cabina Province, calling it a "serious misuse of government resources." Correspondent Bobb says the head of the European observer delegation had noted the report and will investigate further in the coming months.

The final tally of the votes may come Tuesday or Wednesday, but Bobb says little is expected to change, with the MPLA far ahead of second-place UNITA.

Bobb says observers did note that while the various parties received equal time on the evening news to present their views, state media heavily broadcast stories of the accomplishments of the current government regarding rebuilding of infrastructure, schools, etc.

Bobb says, "Many of the people I spoke to said, well, the MPLA may have won these elections by a landslide…there will be more elections in four years time."

For an analysis of the Angolan election, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke to Mohamed El-Khawas, professor of history and political science at the University of the District of Columbia, in Washington, DC. Asked if there were any surprises in the Angolan elections, Profess El-Khawas says, "I don't think there were any surprises because the MPLA controls the government mechanism and they have been able to sell themselves to the public as the only political party that has saved Angola from destruction by UNITA. UNITA, which is a second major political party and the main rival of the MPLA, had a really bad reputation among the Angolans because of the atrocities that they committed during the civil war."

He says some problems were expected because Angola did not have any democratic tradition. He says that it took 16 years after the fighting ended for the country to get to the point of holding legislative elections. The presidential election is scheduled for next year.

El-Khawas comments on the heavy state media coverage of government accomplishments in recent years that preceded Friday's election.

"My feeling really is that happens everywhere whether the election is being held in the Middle East or in Africa. The government is controlling the media…. They have a chance to propagandize their accomplishments in or to weaken the opposition. It is true that everybody was given five minutes or so on the eve of the election to present their views, but the heavy doses of media coverage of the president, his activities, his accomplishments, which might not have any direct impact on the election itself, it would have a great deal of impact on the public."

The UDC professor says that if UNITA were going to successfully compete against the MPLA in future elections, it would have to spend a lot of time and effort rebuilding its public image.