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Rights Group Says Angola Elections Unlikely to be Fair

On the final day of campaigning before Angola's national legislative elections, an international human rights group says the vote is not likely to be free and fair.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch says the Angolan government is failing to safeguard the basic freedoms of assembly and expression. The group also alleges the government is not providing access to the media by all candidates, and is not ensuring security for opposition parties.

Human Rights Watch says it has documented abuses including intimidation of the opposition and the media, as well as government interference with the electoral commission.

Angolan Prime Minister Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos has rejected the charges, saying the vote will be "free, fair and transparent."

Angolans go the polls Friday for their first parliamentary elections in 16 years. Ten parties and four coalitions are competing to fill 220 seats in Angola's National Assembly.

Late Tuesday, the main opposition party UNITA party (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) accused a state bank of donating more than $40 million to the ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) party campaign.

The ruling party denied the charge.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has promised legislative elections every four years. A presidential election is scheduled for next year.

Elections in 1992 were meant to end Angola's long civil war, but UNITA renewed the conflict after losing at the polls. The 27-year war finally ended in 2002.