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FILE PHOTO: Angolan President and MPLA leader, Jose Eduardo dos Santos speaks at the ruling MPLA party congress to determine candidates for the 2017 elections in the capital Luanda, Angola, August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Herculano Coroado/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Stephen Eisenhammer
LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola’s main opposition on Friday rejected provisional election results that gave the ruling party a significant lead, saying the numbers had not been gathered transparently and did not tally with their own count.
After a peaceful parliamentary election on Wednesday, the ruling MPLA's former defence minister, Joao Lourenco, is expected to become Angola's first new president for 38 years, replacing Jose Eduardo dos Santos who, however, will remain party leader.
With 64 percent of the vote counted, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had 65 percent, with the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) on 24 percent, the National Electoral Commission said on Thursday.
“We do not understand where those numbers come from,” UNITA spokesman Alcides Sakala said.
“Our representatives on the electoral commission were not included in producing those provisional results.”
Sakala said UNITA planned to release its own tally later on Friday once it had counted 4 million votes. The election had around 9 million registered voters.
The MPLA and UNITA fought on opposing sides in a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002.
Angola, which has sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest economy, has been mostly peaceful since. But the OPEC member, Africa's second largest oil producer, is in dire need of reforms to boost an economy hammered in the last three years by suppressed crude prices.
If the MPLA's lead is confirmed at the final count, it could give Lourenco the two-thirds parliamentary majority he needs to pass legislation without help from other parties.
In Angola, political parties observe the elections by posting party members at polling stations across the country. The parties then calculate whether their numbers tally with those of the electoral commission.
The MPLA denies the vote count is incorrect.
Further provisional results are expected later on Friday. Definitive results are expected by Sept 6.
Lourenco has vowed to revive the economy and has not ruled out deals with the World Bank and IMF to help restructure an economy that is overly dependent on oil. Angola imports at huge cost everything from washing powder to long-life milk.
A quiet 63-year-old more used to army barracks and the closed doors of party politics than the public spotlight, Lourenco has denied that he will remain in dos Santos' shadow, as the soon to be former president remains head of the party, with potentially sweeping powers over decision-making.
“The influence of the party elite and the dos Santos family will limit his room for manoeuvre,” John Ashbourne, analyst at Capital Economics, said in a note.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)