Slow start in Angola elections

By LULA AHRENS,Associated Press Updated at 2012-08-31 08:50:36 +0000

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LUANDA, Angola (AP) — Angry voters banged at the gate to a polling station which remained closed 90 minutes after voting was to start Friday in legislative elections that the ruling party is expected to win.

Victory for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola , or MPLA, would give Angola's ruler for 33 years, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, another five-year term.

Office cleaner Amalia Masungo said she is not voting because "they (politicians) are all bad men and I don't think my vote will make any difference."

A more positive note came from Braulio Silva, a 26-year-old who works for a logistics company. "Every vote will make a difference. We have to believe in the electoral process," he said from a line of up to 150 people outside a polling station at a school in the slum district of Prenda.

His friend Luis da Silva, a 28-year-old plumber, said the delay is unacceptable and shows no respect for some of the elderly people who have been waiting since 5 a.m. to cast ballots.

Polls were to open at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) in only the second election in 20 years to be held in this oil- and diamond-rich nation whose leaders are accused of corruption and mismanagement.

Some 9.7 million voters are registered to elect 220 legislators. Dos Santos has never been directly elected. Presidential elections were repeatedly postponed. Last year, the government changed the constitution so that the No. 1 candidate of the winning party becomes president.

Dos Santos' party holds 191 national assembly seats after it won 2008 elections in a landslide. UNITA, the biggest opposition party, won 10 percent of votes and 16 seats. UNITA is expected to pick up a few more votes from people who complain about a lack of democracy and an unequal spread of wealth.

At Prenda 2011 primary school they finally opened the gates to votes at 8:40 a.m. Electoral official Delfina Manuel said there was no electricity and it was too dark in the classrooms to open earlier. They also only had one person distributing electoral materials.

This southern African nation was a Cold War battlefield for 27 years, with dos Santos' Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola , or MPLA, backed by Cuban soldiers and a Soviet war chest, pitted against Jonas Savimbi's UNITA, which was backed by apartheid South Africa and the United States. Half a million people died in the war, more than 4 million — a third of the population — was displaced and much infrastructure was destroyed. Both parties had started as guerrilla movements to end Portuguese colonization.

Since the war ended soon after Savimbi's death in a 2002 clash with government troops, Angola has dominated the list of the world's fastest growing economies and is sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest oil producer, after Nigeria. Oil-backed credit lines from China — Angola is China's No. 1 oil supplier and its second biggest importer is the United States — have fueled a building boom of houses, hospitals, schools, roads and bridges. Average life expectancy went up from 45 in 2002 to 51 in 2011, and the average Angolan now has nine years of schooling compared to five in 2000.

But 87 percent of urban Angolans live in shanty towns, often with no access to clean water, according to UNICEF. More than a third of Angolans live below the poverty line. In 2011, Angola ranked 148 out of 187 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index and 168 out of 183 on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.

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