By Catarina Demony
LISBON (Reuters) -Angola’s main opposition party said on Thursday it filed a case with the constitutional court to seek the annulment of last week’s election in which the ruling MPLA was declared the winner.
After the most closely fought election since independence from Portugal in 1975, the electoral commission declared the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) the winner, prolonging its nearly five decades of uninterrupted rule and handing President Joao Lourenco a second term.
Just over 51% of voters had supported the ex-Marxist MPLA, it said. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), its longtime opponent and former civil war enemy, took about 44%, its best result ever, according to the commission.
UNITA has repeatedly said that it does not recognise the results of the vote, and that various complaints have been filed with the electoral commission. The party has cited discrepancies between the commission’s count and the party’s own tally.
“The MPLA did not win the election… we have been in peace for 20 years, and we now need to embrace a true democratic rule of law,” UNITA leader Adalberto Costa Junior said in an address to the nation streamed on his Facebook page.
Earlier on Thursday, the vice-president of UNITA’s parliamentary group told Portuguese broadcaster RTP that in Luanda, Angola’s most populous province, the party was 187,000 votes short.
On its official Instagram account, UNITA said it had filed a lawsuit to annul the election, confirming an earlier report by Portuguese news agency Lusa, which cited a source close to the party’s leadership saying the case listed “several complaints, which amount to illegalities” committed by the commission.
The commission has denied any wrongdoing, and insists the election was fair and transparent.
Costa Junior said he expected the constitutional court and the commission to do their jobs by comparing their vote count with the party’s tally, which has yet to be fully released.
UNITA decided to take the matter to court after its complaints were dismissed by the commission on Tuesday.
“We will do everything to ensure that all votes are effectively accounted for and respected,” Costa Junior said.
The court has 72 hours to inform all interested parties, and another 72 hours to rule on the issue. Analysts say the ruling party controls the court, which is led by a former MPLA member, but the government says it exercises its powers independently.
Lourenco, 68, has pledged to press on with reforms in his second term, including privatising poorly run state assets and continuing to clean up corruption.
But so far his reforms have failed to create a fairer distribution of Angola’s vast oil wealth – it is Africa’s second largest producer – which remains mostly in the hands of a few well-connected MPLA officials.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Sandra Maler)