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Dos Santos in unassailable lead in Angola elections

An Angolan newspaper street seller holds up copies of paper in the street of Luanda on September 1, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)

LUANDA: Angola's state media on Sunday declared the long-ruling Jose Eduardo dos Santos president-elect in state media Sunday, even as vote tallying was unfinished and the opposition was building fraud evidence.

Foreign observers have given the vote a clean bill of health, saying it was credible and transparent.

The government-mouthpiece Jornal de Angola ran a front-page headline declaring "Large victory for MPLA" alongside a full-page picture of Dos Santos clapping.

"The MPLA is the big winner in the 2012 general elections, and everything points to a victory of more than 75 percent of the ballots cast," the paper said on its website.

"The head of the party list, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is the president-elect of the republic."

The latest count, with 85 percent of the polling stations reporting, gave the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) nearly three-quarters of the vote. This compares to the last election in 2008 when the party swept to victory with 81 percent of the ballots.

The National Electoral Commission has not given an indication of exactly when the official, final results would be released, but that announcement could still take days.

Many of the ballots yet to be counted were in the capital Luanda, home to nearly a third of the country's registered voters, where opposition parties were performing better.

Angolans voted Friday for 220 members of parliament, with the leader of the winning party awarded a five-year term as president.

That left Dos Santos all but certain to extend his nearly 33-year rule over Africa's second-largest oil producer, despite a series of urban protests demanding that more of the nation's wealth go towards helping the 55 percent of the population living in abject poverty.

Those frustrations appeared to have taken a toll on his party in Luanda, where the MPLA had 57 percent of the vote with about one-third of polling stations reporting.

The main opposition, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), had nearly 18 percent of the national vote, and 27 percent in Luanda.

The result so far shows Unita bettering its 2008 elections performance, the nation's first peacetime vote, when it took just 10 percent and the MPLA claimed 81 percent.

The breakaway Casa party, formed by dissenters from both the main parties, had around 4.6 percent of the national vote but more than 12 percent in the capital.

Unita leader Isaias Samakuva has long criticised the electoral process, saying the voters roll had not been authenticated while some 2,000 of his party's observers were denied accreditation to polling stations.

A statement on the party's website said both Unita and Casa "are preparing to present documents that prove the results presented by the National Electoral Commission are not the same as those tabulated inside the polling stations in different parts of the country".

But the few international foreign observers that monitored the vote said it was democratic and credible.

"The general elections in Angola were free, fair, transparent and credible," said Pedro Verona Pires, who headed the African Union team of observers.

Several other regional groupings shared similar findings.

The infamously gridlocked streets of Luanda have been unusually quiet since Friday, when the government declared a holiday for the election, giving the country a three-day weekend.

Walking along the city's newly renovated bayside boardwalk, Sergio Jose, 22, said he did not expect the results to cause any unrest, regardless of the outcome.

"Everyone should accept the result, for whoever wins," he said.

But officials from Unita and Casa could not say when they would deliver their official reactions to the results, and much will depend on the outcome of the vote in Luanda where both parties appeared to have made gains.

 

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