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Angola's Ruling MPLA Declares Victory

FILE: Image of MPLA presidential candidate and incumbent President Joao Lourenco on a campaign billboard in Luanda. Taken 8.21.2022

UPDATED: Angola's ruling MPLA party has declared victory in the August 24 presidential election, retaining President Joao Lourenco. This despite Angola's Election Commission not releasing the official final tally.

With more than 97% of the vote counted, the election commission said on Thursday the formerly Marxist People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, was ahead with a 51% majority while its longtime opponent, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, had 44.5%.

"We have reached yet another outright majority. We have a calm majority to govern without any kind of problem and we will do it," MPLA spokesman Rui Falcao told a news conference in the capital Luanda.

The MPLA has ruled Angola for nearly 50 years after the country gained independence from Portugal. The MPLA traditionally wields a grip over the electoral process, and state media and opposition and civic groups have raised fears of voter tampering.

Residents in Luanda reacted with mixed feelings to the preliminary count that was given ample coverage by local media, with state newspaper Jornal de Angola's front page on Thursday saying: "MPLA leads the count."

The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola's (UNITA), the opposition party led by Adalberto Costa Junior, did not immediately respond. UNITA dismissed the first provisional results announced by the commission earlier on Thursday as unreliable.

UNITA's vice-presidential candidate Abel Chivukuvuku told Portuguese radio station TSF that the party was considering contesting the elections result because they do not "correspond to reality".

"I voted for UNITA, and I do not believe in these results," said Jorge, a 40-year-old mechanic who did not give his surname, accusing the electoral commission of being in cahoots with the ruling party.

"I feel really bad. The country is not going to change, it's always the same story."

Another Angolan, engineer Jose Viera Manuel, is also skeptical about the vote bringing change.

"Well at the end of the day we are so disappointed because we all that if it remain like this, all the number will increase more that what they are right now, because they are people in power, they have the tools to manipulate the elections and we all know that they going to do this at the end," Manuel said. "They may manipulate it you know."

Political analysts saw Wednesday's election as UNITA's best-ever chance of victory amid growing anger among young Angolans at the MPLA for being sidelined in profiting from their country's oil-fueled booms. The MPLA has ruled since Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Alex Vines, of the UK-based think tank Chatham House, said it was likely Costa Junior's party would object to the final count.

"We can expect... some months of political turbulence as UNITA will challenge the results," he said.

Anastacio Ruben Sicato, a senior member of the opposition party, said the official results did not tally with their own count.

"We hope there can be common sense," he said.

But, he added, "we are not encouraging a rebellion, the process is not over, we must remain calm."

Candido Almeida, local resident and technician, says he wants the final results out and the election over.

"The results are temporary, so we are waiting that they publish the final one , we must not rush, we mustn’t draw conclusions from the talks on social networks, let’s wait for what the electoral commission is going to say, they will say if UNITA or MPLA won, in the meantime we must stay quite, and respect the democracy."

Results in past elections have been contested, in a process that can take several weeks.

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.

"Voters reacted with a lot of incredulity and disbelief," Angolan political analyst Claudio Silva told Reuters on Thursday, noting that photos of results sheets taken by voters contradicted the provisional count of the CNE.

The election has been overshadowed by Angola's many woes -- a struggling economy, inflation, poverty and drought, compounded by the death of a former strongman president.

Angola is Africa's second largest crude producer, but the oil bonanza also nurtured corruption and nepotism under dos Santos, who died in Spain last month.

This report was sourced from information provided by Agence France-Presse and Reuters.