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Angola’s elections were rigged. The Winner loses. So, what?

Angola’s August 24th general elections underpinned façade democracy. Public institutions such the National Electoral Commission (CNE) and the Constitutional Court (TC) have acted as the gatekeepers of the regime.

Angola’s August 24th general elections underpinned façade democracy. Public institutions such the National Electoral Commission (CNE) and the Constitutional Court (TC) have acted as the gatekeepers of the regime.

The sources of the public instrumentalization

The instrumentalization of public institutions is sustained by long-lasting internal factors, fuelled by a “the winner takes it all” mindset. This is rooted in the military defeat of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) by the forces of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The military defeat produced two unsolved conundrums: first, toxic stability prevails in the country without bringing substantial socio-economic dividends for millions of Angolans that endure multidimensional poverty; second, the independence of the legislature and judiciary threatened by stranglehold of the executive branch with the office of the presidency known for distributing the dividends of oil and minerals across a network of domestic and external sycophants that strive for the regime’s survival.

The election results that fit the MPLA’s survival

The Angola’s elections were shrouded in a litany of irregularities against the laws. The irregularities spanned from an uneven access to the public media for the main opposition parties; the government propaganda; inclusion of 3 million dead people into the computerised electoral file; voters’ displacement and discretionary rules crafted by the CNE president, Manuel Pereira da Silva.

Mr Silva limited the access to the National Tabulation Centre to himself and a commissioner linked to the MPLA. The CNE president violated the electoral legislation by enacting such rules. The irregularities were widely denounced by the opposition parties, but neither the CNE nor the TC enforced the law.

At the closure of the polling stations, the national television (TPA) projected MPLA as the winner with 68.42% against 26.20% for UNITA. Such disparity led to massive spontaneous sharing of the copies of voting minutes in Facebook and WhatsApp, a collective action that forced the CNE to announce revised results, where MPLA won with 51.17% against 43.95% for UNITA.

Newly created parties such as the Humanist Party of Angola managed to elect 2 members of parliament (MPs), whereas the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola-Electoral Coalition lost the 16 MPs that had in the last legislature. Many Angolans wonder how is it possible. The CNE successfully resisted to all calls to publish the voting minutes.

An uneven struggle for electoral truth

Official figures state that 14.399.391 citizens were registered to vote, but only 44.82% of 6.454.109 voted, with an abstention rate of 55.18%. How many of the deceased citizens were accounted in the 7.945.282 who abstained? Were abstention numbers artificially inflated by the CNE? After the CNE ignored UNITA’s claims, UNITA turned to the MPLA dominated TC for justice.

In whole, UNITA was demanding the publication, in CNE’s website, of the results from every single polling station. It would allow to compare the results of its parallel tabulation with the originals in possession of the CNE. UNITA urged the correction of the mandates, for it had evidence credible enough to pick furthers seats and hence to bypass its arch-rival.

The TC ruled that UNITA’s copies of the minutes were simply false, adulterated, had no code of the polling stations and consequently were not credible to challenge the official results. Further, the judges reminded that the CNE was the only institution able to ensure that the results matched with the will of the people, and for that CNE accredited UNITA’s 51.625 delegates to oversee 26. 444 polling stations.

Meanwhile, Josefa Neto, the only judge out of 11 appointed by UNITA at the TC asked: “where do the electoral results that give UNITA 90 MPs came from? Wouldn’t it be so necessary and effective to demand CNE for the recount of the votes?”

Judge Neto argued that the TC should allow to cross-check UNITA’s minutes’ copies with the CNE originals. That could have helped to establish electoral truth. Unfortunately, nor the judges had a glimpse on the results minutes in possession nor were able to serve the will of the people, but produced injustice instead.

The hard fact is that the MPLA can rig the elections to its favour with no consequence whatsoever from the “liberal West” stressed by the “energy turmoil”. João Lourenço was already saluted by the powerful states. Why congratulate a man that is seen by its people, especially the young, as an imposter while the candidate they vote for, is forced to swallow a fabricated defeat? 

The lesson to draw out of this is that democracy requires a level playing field. Meanwhile, the political foundations of regime change have been set in motion by the selfless United Patriotic Front leaders led by Adalberto Costa Júnior. Mr. Júnior, despite being “the winner that loses” as described by the Economist, has built a tangible social capital for regime change in 2027.

Paulo Conceição João Faria

Research Associate (SA UK Bilateral Chair in Political Theory, University of the Witwatersrand) and founder of think tank Ambuila – Pesquisa e Produção Científica.

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