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.
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.