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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Angola ruling party set to win poll as opposition disputes results

A police officer gestures while talking to locals as Angola's election commission says ruling MPLA party leads with 52 per cent majority, after the general election close in Luanda, Angola on Thursday. -- Reuters
A police officer gestures while talking to locals as Angola's election commission says ruling MPLA party leads with 52 per cent majority, after the general election close in Luanda, Angola on Thursday. -- Reuters

LUANDA: Angola's ruling party, which has been in power for nearly five decades, looked set to win a national election with a solid lead over the main opposition on Thursday, after most votes had been counted amid accusations of fraud.


A win for the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) would extend its continuous rule since independence from Portugal in 1975.


Earlier on Thursday the opposition party UNITA's vice-presidential candidate Abel Chivukuvuku told Portuguese radio station TSF that the party was considering contesting the results because they did not "correspond to reality", fuelling fears of post-election violence.


Some 80,000 police officers were deployed across the country to prevent possible unrest. The streets were mostly calm, however, aside from small gatherings in the capital Luanda, which police dispersed using tear gas.


An MPLA spokesperson urged Angolans to await the final result "with serenity".


The election commission said that with about 86 per cent of the votes counted from Wednesday's poll, the MPLA was ahead with a 52 per cent majority, while their main opposition rivals the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) had 42 per cent.


If confirmed, that result would give President Joao Lourenco a second five-year term. But UNITA, led by Adalberto Costa Junior, dismissed the first results announced by the commission earlier on Thursday as unreliable.


Youth in Luanda were angry at the provisional results. The capital voted massively in favour of UNITA, according to the election commission.


"The 500,000 jobs we were promised is a lie... We have nothing," unemployed Paulo Tomas, 30, shouted as he and other young people found out about the initial results on Thursday.


He mirrored the sentiment of many in Angola, where half of the population is poor despite rapid economic growth fuelled by oil exports. The southern African nation is the second biggest producer in the continent.


Lourenco had promised change and broad-based prosperity when he won elections in 2017, but despite some positive results in fighting corruption he has largely not delivered on a pledge to reduce poverty.


Investors cheered at the prospect of continued MPLA rule, with Angola's sovereign dollar bonds gaining on Thursday after first election results were announced.


A voter who only gave his first name, Gouveia, 42, said he had voted for the MPLA and urged its opponents to be patient.


"For me it was the best party but we have to wait for the final result," he said.


Recent ballots, including the last one in 2017, did not spur widespread violence as MPLA's lead remained solid, but a report by the Institute for Security Studies said that if an MPLA win is perceived as fraudulent, unrest could follow.


UNITA and the MPLA have been rivals since before Angola gained independence from Portugal. The two sides fought a civil war intermittently for over 25 years, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed.


The last, decade-long bout of fighting was triggered in 1992 when UNITA contested election results giving the MPLA a clear majority. That triggered a re-start of the civil war which lasted until the two sides made peace in 2002. -- Reuters


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