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Cablegate: Election Eve Predictions: Peaceful, Credible,

VZCZCXRO5529
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLU #0693/01 2481743
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041743Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY LUANDA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5006
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LUANDA 000693

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM AO
SUBJECT: ELECTION EVE PREDICTIONS: PEACEFUL, CREDIBLE,
HARDLY FAIR, BUT STILL A STEP ON THE LONG PATH TO DEMOCRACY

REF: LUANDA 692 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Angola is fast approaching a pivotal moment in its
much troubled history. Within hours, polling booths across
Angola will open for the first time in 16 years and only the
second time in the history of the nation. At 7:00 AM on
Friday, September 5, about 12,400 voting stations are slated
to begin the 11-hour voting day. Even before the first vote
is cast, however, these elections have already made history
in the sense that the now-concluded campaign was free from
the deep fear that permeated the elections of 1992, when both
the MPLA and UNITA openly and vigorously armed their
respective supporters in the run-up to the elections and
subsequently. One observer of that time remarked to the
Ambassador that supporters of both parties were so armed and
tensions so high then that the outbreak of violence was
inevitable. Another observer who was in Luanda during the
,92 campaign said residents feared then the pick-up trucks
filled with angry, drunk, armed young men, &campaigning8
for their respective parties, who terrified the population in
the tense days leading up to the election. In contrast, the
last day of official campaigning here yesterday (September 3)
featured caravans of pick-up trucks and vans, filled with
cheering, singing, flag-waving party campaigners, who evoked
support and curiosity, but certainly not fear, from
passers-by. In this significant way, Angola has moved
smartly beyond a sad chapter in its history.

2. (SBU) According to the Embassy,s own direct observations
in Luanda and in the provinces and to leaders of the EU,
SADC, AU, Pan-African Parliament, Community of
Portuguese-Speaking Countries and other international and
national election observer groups, the campaign across Angola
has been peaceful, despite scattered incidents of
intimidation and violence (reftels). The Israeli Ambassador
told the Ambassador that his survey of numerous Israeli
companies scattered around Angola, including in the
diamond-rich Lunda provinces and other provinces that were
greatly impacted by fighting following the 1992 election,
revealed consistent descriptions of the campaign atmosphere
as akin to a festival or celebration, a marked contrast to
the circumstances of 16 years ago.

3. (SBU) The National Election Commission (CNE) gets high
marks from most Angolans and outside observers for its
efforts to pull off these elections. Although at times a bit
slow out of the starting blocks, the CNE has manifested high
energy and creativity in utilizing untested and often vague
electoral laws to guide election preparations. The CNE,
though at times hamstrung by bureaucracy and its top-down
organization, seems genuine in its efforts to conduct the
elections professionally. Even leaders of opposition parties
have lauded the work of the Commission. Nonetheless,
logistical snafus at the opening of some stations and
throughout the voting day are inevitable, according to CNE
President Caetano de Sousa. And, it remains to be seen
whether election-day reality will reflect de Sousa,s
optimism that the CNE,s nationwide network of trouble
shooters will quickly resolve any logistical problems,
enabling balloting to proceed smoothly. In any case, these
elections have been a learning process for the CNE. As
Caetano de Sousa said to the Ambassador on September 3, these
experiences will prove invaluable as the Commission prepares
for future elections.

4. (SBU) Despite the peaceful nature of the campaign and
the CNE,s diligence in organizing the elections, these
elections cannot be considered &fair8 by any definition of
that term. Enjoying the advantages of incumbency, the ruling
MPLA has taken full advantage of the government,s control of
the nation,s only daily newspaper, the nation,s only
nationwide radio network, and the nation,s only television
channels. Although the state media have given limited news
coverage and the legally mandated air time (five minutes a
day for TV and 10 minutes daily for radio) to each of the 14
contending parties, the air waves and the daily newspaper are
overwhelmingly dominated by generous coverage of the MPLA and
the MPLA-led government,s reconstruction projects. Adding
to the unbalanced coverage, the state media go out of their
way to give a negative twist to their already minimal news
coverage of the opposition. For example, recent TV coverage
of a UNITA rally carried footage of the rally shot from a
side angle that suggested the rally was sparsely attended,
which was not the case. MPLA also takes full advantage of
its access to state resources, dispatching ministers and
other government personnel throughout the country to campaign
for the party as they carry out government business,
blurring, if not erasing, the lines between government and
party. As Louisa Morgantini, head of the EU Election
Observer Delegation here, put it, &You can never distinguish
whether an act is an act of government or of the MPLA.8

LUANDA 00000693 002 OF 002

THE EMBASSY,S TAKE
-------------------

5. (SBU) We believe tomorrow,s elections will be peaceful
and credible. Peaceful in the sense that voters will not be
subjected to an orchestrated campaign of intimidation or
violence, though we anticipate scattered, spontaneous
outbursts by voters frustrated by snags in electoral
logistics or by party zealots who get swept up in the
emotions of the moment. Credible in the sense that
participants in the election process, i.e, the voters and the
various political parties, will accept and live with the
results of the elections, despite the inevitable legal
disputes and allegations that will arise from the process,s
many imperfections and shortcomings. Most importantly, we
believe these elections will bolster confidence in the
electoral process and, thus, set the stage for presidential
elections next year and municipal elections thereafter, a
significant initial step forward on Angola,s long path to
democracy.

6. (SBU) In terms of assessing the electoral equation, we
find several significant undefined variables, specifically,
how do those Angolans who have yet personally to benefit from
Angola,s explosive economic growth, i.e., the vast majority
of the voters, manifest on election day their reality that
they are on the short end of Angola,s economic stick. We
see three possible courses of action for these voters:
express dissatisfaction by staying home on election day;
express dissatisfaction by voting for anyone except the MPLA;
or, vote for MPLA because that is the only party that they
have known and, besides, the opposition parties do not offer
appealing alternatives. Our sense is that by and large the
MPLA will reap a peace benefit, garnering good support from
Angolans who are motivated most by their appreciation for the
peace of the past six years. In contrast, middle-class,
better-educated Angolans, especially those in Luanda, may
choose to vent their frustration by staying home tomorrow.
In sum, we forecast that the MPLA will win the election in
the sense that it will secure a majority of the seats in the
new 220-seat National Assembly. Whether the MPLA secures the
more than two-thirds majority needed to rewrite the
Constitution on its own is an open question.

7. (SBU) As a last thought, we suggest that once the dust
settles from this election and if the MPLA emerges with a
comfortable victory, President Dos Santos will launch de
facto the presidential election campaign, recognizing that he
and his party cannot count on a peace dividend to deliver
victory next time, that he must work now to keep voter
support by endeavoring that more Angolans benefit from the
nation,s wealth.
MOZENA

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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