Africa

Angola: Promises temper election victory

Luanda's skyline

Angola's long-serving President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), have enjoyed another thumping victory at the polls.

Although not quite the 82% landslide of 2008, with 97% of ballots counted so far, they have scored more than 70% and will retain an absolute parliamentary majority in parliament and be able pass any law they wish.

But with a new mandate comes new responsibility, and while the opposition parties squabble over alleged fraud and irregularities, ordinary Angolans are waiting for campaign promises to be delivered in Africa's third-largest economy.

Failure to meet growing demands from his electorate could expose Mr dos Santos - who has been in power since 1979, making him Africa's second-longest serving leader - to Arab Spring-style protests, a handful of which have taken place in the past year.

While the capital Luanda's ever-expanding glass and steel skyline gleams as a symbol of the country's oil-fuelled post-war growth, in graffitied doorways women sit on upturned boxes selling vegetables while their young children play in the dust.

"I don't have any water or electricity in my home," explained Andre Antonio, a motorbike courier, as he parked a bike - his only source of livelihood - on the crumbling litter-strewn pavement.

The 23 year old, who like millions of Angolans lives in a sprawling self-built township, known as a "bairro", on the outskirts of the city, says he has to pay someone to collect water from a communal tap while he is out at work and relies on a diesel-generator at night to do his studies.

"The country has changed a lot but I think after 10 years of peace we could have developed more," he said.

"We need the basics like water and power.

"I think the new marginal development [waterfront] is beautiful - I really do - but most people won't be able to benefit from it or even access it."

Image caption Not far from Luanda's spectacular waterfront, there is little sign of development

Mr Antonio is like many young people, who having grown disillusioned with the MPLA and the opposition Unita, voted for a newly formed political party called Salvation-Electoral Coalition (Casa-CE).

Despite only being launched in March this year, the party, led by one-time Unita strongman Abel Chivukuvuku, won 6% of the vote and the guarantee of at least 10 seats in parliament.

Some say Casa-CE would have scored more if the vote had been fair, and Unita, which is alleging fraud and irregularity at the electoral commission, is expected to mount a legal challenge to the Constitutional Court in the coming days.

Future jobs

Many ordinary Angolans however seem less concerned about how the electoral process was organised and more focused on what their new government - legitimate or not - will bring.

Waiting for a cold drink at a roadside stand, Severino Augusto, said: "I can't really comment on how the election was organised. The MPLA is the biggest party so it makes sense it would win.

"But for me what is important is that they start working for the people.

"There have been a lot of promises over the years and they are not always honoured."

Originally from Kwanza Sul province south of the capital, Mr Augusto said he would come to Luanda two years ago to finish his high school education and in the hope he would be given a house.

"They promised all young people somewhere to live but I am still waiting," the 22 year old sighed.

"They have built lots of new houses but many are standing empty. I hope this changes soon."

Markus Weimer, an Angolan expert at London think tank Chatham House, said the MPLA knows it needs to start delivering.

"They have prioritised poverty reduction and social development, it just remains to be seen if they can translate these policies into concrete actions on the ground," he told the BBC.

"Angolan people are growing more demanding, they want more from their government," he added.

"They see the headlines about the growth but don't feel the direct benefit so they are becoming impatient and they are also much more willing to express how they feel than they have been in the past."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Angola is one of Africa's leading oil producers

While polling day ran significantly more smoothly than in 2008, when voting spilled over into a second day, there were some problems.

Registered voters could not find themselves on lists or were told they were supposed to be voting hundreds of kilometres away.

And many party delegates and observers could not get accreditation from the electoral commission to monitor the vote and count.

Voter turnout was down to 60% - and in some provinces, including Luanda, 50% - a significant drop from the 80% in 2008, Angola's first election since the end of its nearly three-decade civil war.

Regardless of the opposition gripes, Mr Weimer said: "The MPLA may still have an absolute majority, but Unita nearly doubled the 10% it won in 2008 and Casa-CE has done very well to win enough votes to enter parliament given they are less than a year in existence."

The 2008 election was about proving Angola's years of conflict were over, and while memories of 1992, when the contested result led to bloodshed, still loom large for the older generation, there is a definite sense that now in 2012 a new chapter is beginning.

It has been more than a decade since peace came to the country and people, especially the young who have no memory of war, now want to start sharing in its dividends.

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