06 September 2008

Election Day

The national elections held yesterday represented the first since 1992. The civil war reignited after those elections, so hopefully things to go more smoothly this time around. I’m told there are 10 political parties and 4 coalitions of parties on the ballot, and when Angolan citizens go to the polls the only decision they have to make is which party they support. It’s up to the parties, then, to designate who will represent them based the proportion of votes the party receives. I don’t understand this process fully, but with a little more research I bet it’s easier than explaining the electoral college system in Portuguese. I’ve tried to do this a few times when the subject of how American presidents are election and realize now that this is a fool’s errand. I just say “it’s not a direct vote and it’s complicated” and leave it at that. But I digress.

A lot of the political parties have posted their party platforms around town, and among the more interesting ones promise things like “treating the 7th Day Adventists as equals to the Catholic Church.” Some of the party symbols are interesting also – my favorite features a writing pen with a big star on one end.

In a way I feel like I’m in some kind of bizarro civics class. I have no idea what the level of political discourse is like among the average citizen, but to the uneducated eye there seem to be open displays of support for a diverse number of parties. Are some of these people paid walking advertisements? Maybe, but it’s an exciting atmosphere nonetheless.

The MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) are the two strongest parties, the former being the party in power and the latter being the main resistance party during the civil war. It’s widely expected the MPLA will win based on their record of managing rapid economic development in recent years. If that doesn’t work, the freebies (bikes, TVs, beer) that the MPLA is apparently handing out at rallies might do the trick. Groups like Human Rights Watch have cited trouble in some rural areas and claim that the MPLA is trying to intimidate opposition parties, but I have to say my own uneducated eye sees pretty visible support for a variety of parties, UNITA included. Unlike in Zimbabwe, representatives from both the EU and the US were invited to Angola to observe the elections as well, which should help lend credibility to the results. Time will tell.

"Vote MPLA" banner outside our apartment:

UNITA and MPLA flags in Luanda (and an idea of what traffic is like):

Not sure how effective the giant beach ball was for the PRS:

"Bread, Peace, Liberty" with non-waterproof party platform posters:

"We are all part of this flag" general election poster encouraging voter registration:

MPLA outdoing UNITA in the flag size competition:

"MPLA: The right path for a better Angola"

Benguela Party HQ for the FNLA Party "Land and Liberty":

No comments: