Observers Reserve Judgement on Vote Counting Irregularities

International observers to the 2017 elections in Angola have issued positive assessments of the electoral campaign and voting process, but their statements do not mention the vote counting process, which opposition parties have pointed out was conducted in a way that flouted the electoral law.

The African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) issued statements on Friday 25 August, two days after the election date. They did not comment on events that took place after the polls closed on 23 August.

Although Angolan state media have selectively quoted the observers to create the impression of unequivocal endorsement, the EU and SADC both made clear that their statements were provisional and a final assessment of the elections would be made after the process was completed.

The brief EU statement was couched in diplomatic language but hinted at the ongoing controversy over the count, warning that “it is important that the electoral process is completed in full transparency and any complaint addressed through legal means”.

SADC also acknowledged that the electoral process was not yet completed and a final statement would be issued later: “Our long-term election observers will continue to observe the post-election period until August 31, 2017.”

The president of UNITA, Isaías Samakuva, emphasized that the results announced by the CNE could not be considered valid since they were not produced according to the provisions of the law.

“UNITA will pronounce on the results of the election only when the CNE announces its definitive results, which must be produced by the CNE’s local structures, based upon the genuine records of voting at each voting table, in terms of the law,” Samakuva said in a televised statement on Saturday.

However, the Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa endorsed the outcome of the election by congratulating João Lourenço, the ruling MPLA candidate. The MPLA has been in power for 42 years.

The AU and SADC both issued comprehensive statements that were generally positive in their assessment of voter registration, party funding, and the allocation of airtime in the designated “Tempo de Antena” party political broadcasts.

The SADC statement, however, noted concerns over “selectivity and partiality” in state media coverage of party campaigns, and recommended a mechanism in future “to ensure that state resources and the public media are not used to benefit any single political party’s campaign program over others”.