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Angola's Polls Close Amid Claims of Irregularities

A man casts his ballot at a voting station in Kicolo, Luanda, Angola, August 31, 2012.

A man casts his ballot at a voting station in Kicolo, Luanda, Angola, August 31, 2012.

Polls have closed in Angola in parliamentary elections that are expected to return the ruling party and President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to power.The main opposition party plans to challenge the results.

Friday was made a national holiday in Angola to allow 9.7 million registered voters, half of the country's population, to vote in only the third elections since Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Several irregularities were reported during voting hours. Some poll stations opened with more than one hour delay, and some voters were not sure of the place they were supposed to be casting ballots.

The main opposition party, UNITA, led by Isaias Samakuva, used these incidents to fuel its claims of fraud.

As he was voting Friday, the opposition leader repeated what he said Thursday in an interview with VOA - that the party will seek to have election invalidated.

Samakuva said his party supporters will vote, but will ask to have the results nullified.

UNITA also said its observers were not allowed to access polling stations in the capital, Luanda.

Angolan journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques went to visit the poll stations. He says the atmosphere was different from the last elections, in 2008, when the country was coming out of 27 years civil war.

"Regardless of how the process was handled in 2008, people showed up to the polls in large numbers. Because they wanted to contribute to peace, they wanted to contribute to democracy," Marques said.

Marques said that this time, he saw few people going to the polls, and he sees it as a political stance, to protest against alleged fraud, and against what many see as a certain victory for Dos Santos' party, the MPLA, which has ruled Angola for 33 years.

"If they are not allowed to voice their concern through the ballot, then they will do it with their silence, and that is what many people are doing. And the silence and not turning up to the polls is clearly a rejection of President Dos Santos' policies," Marques said.

Under dos Santos, Angola has become Africa's second-largest oil producer, but the oil wealth has failed to reach a large proportion of Angolans, many of whom live in impoverished slums.

The preliminary election results are expected to be announced Saturday, and the final results should be released next week.