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Angolans Vote in Legislative Elections Amid Technical Problems


In Angola, voters are going to the polls to elect a new parliament, in the country's first elections in 16 years. Voter turnout has been massive, despite irregularities and logistical problems. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Luanda.

Voters across Angola turned out early Friday forming long lines before dawn outside the country's 14,000 voting stations.

But hours later, many polling places had failed to open. Some lacked ballot papers. Others lacked voter registration lists, voting booths or ballot boxes.

Voters at a major center in the Kiambo Kiaxi district in northeastern Luanda became angry after several hours' wait. One of these was shoemaker Joao Paulo.

He says things are going badly here. We have been waiting a long time. They promised to open at seven o'clock. We have been here since five-thirty and nothing is happening.

However, another voting center a few kilometers away opened on time. Maria Adao Pedro de Souza woke up at five o'clock to be the first to cast her ballot.

She says the voting went well. It was well organized and went better than the first time in 1992. She says what happened before is in the past. Now we all need to work to make things better.

The Angolan government is hoping the elections will put to rest the legacy of more than four decades of conflict, including a lengthy struggle for independence and a 27-year civil war that followed. The fighting killed an estimated one-half million people and destroyed much of the infrastructure and social support systems in the country.

Several hundred international observers have been invited to monitor the vote and some expressed concerns about the logistical problems.

A network of 2,500 Angolan observers, called Plataforma, Friday protested after most of its 350 observers in populous Luanda Province were denied accreditation.

Some 100 Plataforma observers in Huambo province, another hotly contested area, were given credentials only at the last minute.

Plataforma's National Coordinator, Onesimo Setacula, told VOA he was shocked because his group had worked with the National Electoral Commission during the voter registration process.

He says this appears to a deliberate effort to muzzle an impartial voice that was entering the electoral process for the first time.

More than 5,000 candidates are competing for 220 seats in the legislative body.

The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola-MPLA - is hoping to win a two-thirds majority. This would allow it to change the Angolan constitution without opposition support.

But the main opposition party, the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola - UNITA, hopes to gain seats by campaigning for change after three decades of MPLA political domination. Twelve smaller parties are also competing.

The vote is seen as a first test in anticipation of presidential elections next year.