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UNITA Concedes Defeat in Angolan Legislative Elections


In Angola, the opposition UNITA party has accepted defeat in the country's legislative elections, after the electoral commission said that - with nearly 80 percent of the votes counted - the ruling MPLA party was leading with more than 80 percent and the opposition UNITA party was second with 10 percent. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Luanda.

The head of Angola's main opposition group - Isaias Samakuva of the Union for Total Independence of Angola, UNITA, late Monday night - accepted the results of the Angolan elections on national television.

He says, despite everything that happened, UNITA accepts the results of the elections and hopes the winning party will govern in the interests of all. He also praised Angolan voters for their high participation, their civic responsibility and their sacrifices.

Earlier, Samakuva had protested what he said were serious flaws in the voting. But, with most of the votes counted, it had become clear that the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA, was headed for a landslide victory.

UNITA's concession also followed reports by international observer groups that the vote, in general, had been free and fair.

The head of the European Union's observer mission, Luisa Morgantini, called the elections a major step forward. She says the EU is convinced the elections were an advance for democracy, despite organizational limitations and certain legal inconsistencies.

Many polling stations opened late on Election Day. Others ran out of ballot papers. And, a few failed to open at all. The problems led election officials to extend voting in 320 centers by a second day, Saturday.

Nevertheless, the European observers said voting was peaceful and tabulation of the results was transparent.

Observers from the Pan-African Parliamentary Union, the Southern African Community and several other regional organizations agreed.

A network of Angolan observer groups (called Plataforma) that fielded 13-hundred monitors across the country said it recorded six incidents of violence or intimidation and more than 400 other irregularities, mostly because of a lack of voting materials. But, it said there was no evidence of coercion.

These were the second multi-party elections in Angolan history and the first since a peace accord, six years ago, ended 27 years of civil war mainly between UNITA and the MPLA.

The MPLA ran on a platform of continuity and pledged to devote more revenues from Angola's booming oil industry to rebuild the country's devastated infrastructure, education and health services.

UNITA and 12 other opposition parties campaigned on the need for change after three decades of MPLA rule.

The vote was seen as paving the way for presidential elections, next year, in which President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA leader Isaias Samakuva are expected to be candidates.

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