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Angola Ruling Party Takes Commanding Lead in Parliamentary Election

Angola's ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party is overwhelmingly expected to win last week's parliamentary election with over 80 percent of the votes counted so far. But the main opposition Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) disputes the results, saying the balloting was hugely flawed. UNITA also claimed there were too many irregularities, including some polling stations opening late or not at all and some officials failing to properly confirm the identify of voters on the registration lists. VOA Scott Bobb is monitoring the election as results trickle in. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Angola's capital, Luanda that the ruling party performed well beyond expectations.

"The electoral commission continues to count the votes from the balloting on Friday and Saturday. And as of late Sunday night, it had counted more than two thirds of the ballots. These two thirds of the ballot counted the MPLA, the ruling party of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos is way in the lead with more the 80 percent of the total vote, and appears destined to win by a landslide and even control the next parliament by more than a two- thirds majority," Bobb pointed out.

He said the main opposition party performed below expectation in the election.

"UNITA has done more poorly than in 1992, the last elections when it scored something like 35% and has been basically struggling along at about 10%. FLNA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola) has also gone down. Of course, there are some new parties that have come up. A couple of them are regionally based and one is a group of middle class intellectuals in Luanda; they are still very small, just one of two percent of the total votes. But these are what people were looking at last night," he said.

Bobb said the leader of the opposition UNITA is not pleased with the way the election was conducted.

"UNITA leader Isaias Samakuva, on election day called it a mess and said that there were serious problems. On Sunday, he spoke to reporters and seemed to back down a bit and he said that they (opposition) had registered their complaints with the electoral commission that there were many flaws and that he suspected that perhaps the will of the Angolan people has not been fully respected at the polls because of this," Bobb noted.

He said the opposition UNITA leader called for calm despite his reservation about the election.

"He urged his supporters to remain calm, and indicated that he would continue to support the process saying there would be elections in four years time rather than 33 years as before. And that Angola must go forward and progress and reconstruct. Asked was he formally challenging the results he said he would wait until the final official tally is released, which is what he has to do y law," he said.

Bobb said notwithstanding the inconsistencies during the election, most observers expressed their satisfaction that it was credible.

"We've heard from African observers mostly in the last 24 hours. First the consortium of or network of Angola observers called PLATAFORMA or platform that fielded 13 hundred observers all across the country held a press conference. They noted many irregularities, but mostly logistical and technical. And they said that however, despite these problems, in their view the overall will of the people was respected and therefore they delivered their preliminary seal of approval. SADC (Southern African Development Community) also delivered similar evaluation, as did the Pan-African Parliamentary Union, which late Sunday delivered its verdict saying they listed over a dozen types of problems. But it also included problems of government patronaging dominance of the news media, but also said that in their view overall and in general, these were free and fair," Bobb noted.

Meanwhile, government-run media reportedly lashed out at the leader of the opposition UNITA saying that his complaints about unfairness in the parliamentary election amount to sour grapes and urged him to reconsider for the sake of all Angolans. But others said it was important that the former rebel group's complaints be investigated.

International observers of the election have been watching the vote closely after tarnished elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya, reportedly hoping that Angola would defy its own history and emerge from the election with political consensus.