Angola's main opposition party UNITA has accused the Constitutional Court of undermining democracy after judges ousted its leader, a likely top contender for the presidency in elections next year.
The court's decision was leaked on local media on Tuesday, the same day the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) formed a coalition with two other groups to increase its chances of defeating the ruling MPLA.
UNITA president Adalberto Costa Junior was named leader of the coalition, known as the United Patriotic Front.
But Costa Junior stepped down three days later, after the Constitutional Court officially released a judgement that annulled his November 2019 election as party president.
The ruling "represents a gross interference in UNITA's internal life" and is "devoid of legal" basis, the party said in a statement on Friday.
"Angola's democratic rule of law is at risk," it added.
Former UNITA president Isaias Samakuva has stepped in as interim leader, and a new election has been called for later this month.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital Luanda, Costa Junior on Friday condemned the situation as "an attack on democracy".
The 59-year-old is seen as the main threat to President Joao Lourenco, 67, who is expected to seek a second term in polls due in August 2022.
Lourenco's Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has ruled the oil-rich but impoverished southern African country since independence from Portugal in 1975.