angola elections 2012, post 14 | the revolution may be autotuned
I’m in Namibia for a short job this summer, and I’ve gotten excited by the presidential election that will be held just next door on August 31 in Angola - its first in 20 years, after the last ones came apart in civil war. This weekly series presents my English translation of Portuguese articles and documents related to the campaign. All links are in Portuguese unless otherwise stated.
The campaign’s in full swing, and my translation this week suggests why Angola’s hip-hop artists might be the only ones who can save it. The MPLA is up to its usual shenanigans: It’s snubbing Voice of America’s televised all-party debate this Friday, saying “you can’t hold a debate with people who have no ideas.” At the same time, Club-K reports that the MPLA is amassing weapon stockpiles in UNITA strongholds to raise public fears that the opposition wants a return to war.
Outside the main parties, different grassroots groups are responding in different ways. Today the Civil-Society Electoral Reflection Group held a press conference to announce an 11-point manifesto on why the elections are undemocratic:
- Vandalism of campaign posters, with police intervention only on behalf of the MPLA
- Violence between the MPLA and UNITA
- The disappearance of activists
- The partisan electoral commission
- Unequal party access to State media
- The unaudited election roll
- Lack of safeguards for illiterate voters
- Non-transparent vote-counting methods
- Sidelining of the Constitutional Court
- Exclusion of independent observers
- Refusal of visas to many foreign reporters
It’s a strong summary of the issues in play, but when Voice of America asked the Reflection Group what it plans to do about it, all it seemed to have in mind was to ask limply for meetings: “in June we were received by CASA-CE, today by UNITA … the MPLA isn’t responding, the Social Renewal Party didn’t respond, the electoral commission didn’t respond either.”
Meanwhile, a group of youth activists led by well-known hip-hop artists are doing the unthinkable: They’re taking to the streets. They insist their protests are non-violent; the authorities insist the gatherings have to be curbed to keep the peace (I wrote about some of the brutal attacks against the demonstrators in English back in May). Former Prime Minister Marcolino Moco, who’s been an outspoken critic of the dos Santos regime after it railroaded him out of office in 1996, seems ambivalent about what the youth movement represents: On August 9 he told Voice of America that he sees their cause as legitimate, but that “at my age, I don’t agree with revolutions anymore.” From my limited vantage point, I’ve been unsure how much sway a few hundred embattled youth could really have over the election - but then I came across one final Voice of America piece, this one about a new watchdog initiative they’re spearheading, and I’m ready to sign up:
Youths seek united opposition front against electoral fraud
Voice of America | August 12, 2012
Rapper Luaty Beirão AKA Ikonoklasta says the movement already has the backing of the Social Renewal Party, FNLA and CASA-CE [Beirão, the son of a former member of dos Santos’s inner circle, has been speaking out against the regime since 2002 - check out a badass English-language profile with some of his music here]
Young Angolans are bringing together opposition parties to create a Broad Movement to monitor the election.
The second Luanda Youth Conference [held August 11] proposed the creation of a broad election-monitoring movement with the three well-known, credible opposition parties competing in the August 31 elections.
Leaders from UNITA, CASA-CE and Social Renewal Party joined the event in response to the youths’ appeals. [Sic: It’s not clear what UNITA’s involvement really was.]
Luaty Beirão, one of the members of the revolutionary group, says he aims to create a Broad Movement for Electoral Truth and Defence of the Vote.
“We have concerns in civil society, and we want to set up a movement that can pool all our information.”
Beirão then speaks of creating a Parallel Election Monitoring Centre on August 31, with political parties and civil-society organizations.
“We’re going to create a web page, just for the 31st, which will pool all our information. We invited the FNLA under Ngola Kambango, the Social Renewal Party, UNITA and CASA-CE, which we see as the real opposition. UNITA didn’t show up: We don’t know why, given the interest they showed in the initial idea at our first meeting.”