Cablegate: "The Angolan" Electoral News Bulletin, Vol. Iii
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DE RUEHLU #0585/01 2121407
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301407Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY LUANDA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4932
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LUANDA 000585
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM AO
SUBJECT: "THE ANGOLAN" ELECTORAL NEWS BULLETIN, VOL. III
REF: LUANDA 0556 LUANDA 0471 LUANDA 0432
1. (U) In This Issue:
-- Opposition Victory Seen in Major MPLA Reversal
-- And there were 14: Quick Decisions made on Party Appeals
-- Constitutional Court Shakes up the Electoral Process
-- Media Reaction: Local Papers Mock Small Parties'
Opposition Victory Seen in Major MPLA Reversal
2. (SBU) On July 9th the MPLA abruptly abandoned its effort
to impose a two-day election by amendments to the electoral
law. Opposition parties and civil society hailed the shift
as a major victory. The effort was initiated by President
Dos Santos when he convoked the elections (Reftel C) and
ordered the legislature to study whether a two-day election
was required in order to guarantee all voters access to the
polls. The ruling MPLA backed the two-day vote against
fierce opposition from civil society and legal watchdogs.
AJPD (the Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy)
argued that amending the electoral law after convoking
elections violated the spirit and/or letter of the law. The
National Electoral Commission (CNE) also issued a carefully
worded communique saying, in essence, such a change wasn't
3. (SBU) Most opposition parties, led by UNITA, also
criticized the change, invoking memories of overnight ballot
box tempering in the '92 elections and the more recent
example of Kenya. In a July 3rd meeting with the Ambassador,
UNITA President Isaias Samakuva detailed how this move
threatened the credibility of the electoral process, and
explained UNITA planned to boycott the National Assembly vote
on the amendment should it reach the floor of the National
Assembly, a strategy to embarrass the MPLA enough to bring
them to the bargaining table.
4. (SBU) In the end UNITA's gambit worked. Faced with a
storm of controversy, Dos Santos convened the bi-lateral
commission to discuss the matter. Designed by the Lusaka
Peace Accords to hammer out differences between the parties,
the Commission had not met for many months despite UNITA'S
calls for regular sessions during the pre-election period.
Following this meeting, the National Assembly passed the July
9th resolution setting a one-day election.
And there were 14: Quick Decisions made on Appeals
5. (U) On July 28, the Constitution Court submitted the final
group of 14 eligible candidate lists - 10 parties and 4
coalitions - to the National Electoral Commission (CNE). The
Court quickly rejected appeals from the 20 parties deemed
ineligible to run (reftel). In statements to the press the
Court has clarified that none of the ineligible parties will
be proscribed; only parties which fail to meet eligibility
standards in two consecutive elections will be proscribed.
6. (U) On July 29, 2008 the CNE conducted a lottery to
determine the order that parties will appear on voting
ballots, and the order they appear on set times on National
Radio and Television. The lottery was conducted in public at
the Talatona Convention Center, with representatives of
political parties present to witness personally the drawing
of lots. With the lottery complete, the CNE can now finalize
its order with the Spanish company contracted to print the
ballots (reftel A).
Constitutional Court Shakes up the Electoral Process
7. (U) Angola's new Constitutional Court has shaken up
Angola's political landscape since its June 25 inauguration.
While its overall mandate puts the Court in position to rule
on the constitutionality of all laws, mandates, decrees and
treaties, its immediate focus has been to settle a wide
variety of election-related issues, including determination
of the legality of political parties and their candidate
lists for the September 5 legislative elections (reftel).
Though the Court was sworn in a mere 13 days before the
deadline for candidate submissions, the Court and its
quickly-recruited staff of almost 400 rapidly set up shop.
In order to cope with the onslaught on paperwork submitted by
political parties to support their candidate lists, the Court
instituted true rarities in the GRA: extended night and
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weekend hours to cope with the workload and a website
(www.tribunalconstitutional.ao) that is frequently updated
with the Court's latest decisions. All of the Courts
decisions have been posted online for public review.
8. (SBU) The Court's setup is not without controversy. Some
opposition and civil society leaders criticized President dos
Santos's heavy hand in selecting the Court's seven members,
and charged that ties to the Executive threaten the Court's
independence and impartiality. The President nominated three
members, including Court President Rui Ferreira, the former
private legal council to President dos Santos, and Onofre Dos
Santos, the CNE's General Director for Elections in the 1992.
Parliament nominated three: two by the ruling MPLA and one
by UNITA. The Supreme Court chose one of its members. By
law, each judge serves a single seven-year term.
Media Reaction: Local Papers Mock Small Parties' "Disorder"
9. (U) Luanda's private weekly newspapers, long known to look
for safe ways to knock the ruling MPLA, have lately turned a
mocking eye on the inability of the majority of Angola's 96
political parties to make a legitimate run in the nation's
first elections in 16 years despite the thousands of dollars
they received from the GRA. "Agora" compared these parties,
who long and nosily demanded up-front campaign subsidies from
the government for these legislative elections, to "rats
fleeing when they sense a cat." Of the 34 political entities
that did submit candidate lists to the Court, "Angolense"
noted the "high level of disorganization" and "true tumult"
shown by most when delivering their candidates lists and
supporting information, noting that some even used suitcases
to transport what "seemed to be the whole world" to the
Court. "A Capital" contrasted the "great fuss" that
accompanied many parties' delivery of documents in "giant
bags, crates, coolers, not to mention many small sacks" with
the "elegance" shown by UNITA and MPLA's apparently
"fuss-free" deliveries. "A Capital" concluded that "in
reality, only these two parties showed they are in condition
to fight one-on-one in the September 5 elections."