Angola is heading to a new stage in its history after the just concluded General Election produced a stronger opposition.
The oil-rich country, which held a hotly contested polls on August 24, is now facing a stronger loser since its first multi-party vote in 1992. This is after two biggest political fronts publicised contradictory figures on how they performed in elections.
The ruling Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in power since Independence in 1975, emerged the winner with 51.17 percent of the vote, securing President João Lourenço a second term.
In spite of officially earning 43.95 percent of the votes and making significant progress from the country´s previous polls, the main opposition party National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) said it will contest the results.
Growth in numbers
“Unita became the biggest winner of the elections if we take into account that it is growing in numbers with each election while the ruling MPLA has decreased to its poorest performance ever,” Carlos Alberto, a political analyst told the state-owned TV TPA.
In the 2017 polls, Unita got 26.67 percent of the vote while its main contender 61 percent in 2017.
For the past week’s polls, four of the 16 electoral commissioners did not sign off on the final results, expressing doubts about the process.
Mr João Paca, an active civil society member in Luanda explained that Unita's growth is connected to its resilience to the test of time.
“It had several inner issues, had to repeat its leader's election because of misunderstandings with the country's courts but it he has survived”, Mr Paca told The EastAfrican adding that “one of the great secrets of Unita's growth has to do with the partnerships it makes and working well on the opponent's fragilities”.
For the August 24 polls, the charismatic Unita’s leader Adalberto Costa Junior, 60, headed the United Patriotic Front coalition, which brings together several major opposition figures, leading intellectuals including businesspeople.
Even the former biggest family in Angola campaigned for Mr Júnior. Tchizé and Isabel dos Santos, former President José Eduardo dos Santos daughters publicly said they would vote for Unita and its leader.
“Mr Júnior was able to bring words of comfort to the discontented in the MPLA. To the people, he promised to do what his rivals had not done in 47 years”, Mr Paca added.
However, it appears a stronger opposition in the polls could also risk dividing the country down the middle, between the MPLA and Unita supporters.
Michaela Webba, A Unita legislator, said on Wednesday that they were preparing to challenge the polls results in the Constitutional Court.
Previously, their leader calmed his supporters saying that they would exhaust all legal avenues in the country and then seek for international help.
Apart from Unita, the Social Renovation Party (PRS) and the Broad convergence for the Salvation of Angola (Casa-Ce) said they would also contest the polls results.
The main opposition seems to have also a support from civil society.
In Luanda, a group of Angolan civil society organisations is asking the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to compare all the synthesis minutes to "prove" the MPLA victory and ensure the "electoral truth" expressed on August 24.
On Wednesday, a group of 24 non governmental organistions said in a statement that they demand a full recount of votes.
Arrested and beaten
On Saturday, Angolan police repressed demonstrators preparing to march from the Independence Square to the outskirts of the Presidential Palace in Luanda against the polls results announced by CNE.
Several demonstrators were arrested and beaten.
The European Union (EU) also joined its voice, saying it was aware of the complaints by the opposition and civil society on some shortcomings in the electoral process and invites stakeholders to use all legal remedies to address their concerns.
“The EU encourages an open, constructive and inclusive dialogue between the Government of Angola, opposition political parties and civil society, and recognises peaceful expressions of opinion as essential to democracy”, the EU said in a statement.
“It [EU] urges the election authorities to make every possible efforts to respond to them in a fair and transparent manner,” the statement added.
Despite international appeal, criticism from opponents and civil society, re-elected President João Lourenço pledged more dialogue with all sectors of society but rejected the possible coalition government.
"This was a vote of confidence that gives us the immense responsibility to promote dialogue and social consultations”.