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Angola Set for Friday's Legislative Elections

This Friday, Angola holds parliamentary elections, and many view the poll as a test case to see whether the country is ready for presidential elections next year.

Angola's nearly 30-year civil war officially came to an end in 2002. The country is now in the rebuilding phase, with newfound oil revenues.

VOA correspondent Scott Bobb is following the elections. From the capital, Luanda, he spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about Friday's legislative elections.

"Today (Wednesday) is the last day of the campaign period…and all the parties held their largest rallies of the entire campaign. MPLA, the governing party, drew tens of thousands, if not a couple of hundred thousand people, to their rally…. And (opposition party) UNITA also held its at the same time in another part of town. On Friday, some eight million registered voters are to go to the polls for the first time in 16 years and they're to elect a new parliament. MPLA is expected to do very well and many observers are waiting to see just how the UNITA Party and some of the smaller parties do," he says.

Bobb says the issues include growth, reduction of poverty, and jobs.

"The past six years have been one of building and rebuilding, but really there's still much to be done. And so, what observers are looking for is the degree of patience or frustration of the Angolan people, for whom the expectations of a better time are growing, given the rise in prices for petroleum, diamonds and other minerals, [with] which Angola is richly endowed," he says.

Asked whether there's a consensus on whether the election will be free and fair, Bobb says, "It depends who you ask. The ruling party and the government believe that they are and will be. The opposition parties, in particular UNITA, have complained of a lack of access to the media, that, although they have five minutes every night, each party does, on national television, the media have devoted a very large amount of coverage to the achievements of the government. The observers have been largely quiet, waiting to see the outcome of the vote before they make their pronouncements."

Some international human rights organizations have questioned whether there's a level playing field for Friday's vote. "In terms of the government's desire to see a free and fair vote, most believe that is sincere," he says.

Angola has surpassed Nigeria as Africa's largest oil producer. All the political parties are calling for oil revenues to be invested in infrastructure, building a major refinery, factories, job creation and improving education.

Bobb says education in Angola "virtually collapsed for two generations" because of civil war.