Angola's court rejects vote challenge, upholds ruling party win

Angola Angolan President Joao Lourenco has been confirmed for a second term in office after last month's elections.  By Julio PACHECO NTELA (AFP)
Angolan President Joao Lourenco has been confirmed for a second term in office after last month's elections. By Julio PACHECO NTELA (AFP)

Angola's top court on Thursday dismissed an opposition challenge disputing the results of last month's general elections, paving the way for President Joao Lourenco to be sworn in for a second term.

The constitutional court rejected the appeal filed by Angola's main opposition party, UNITA, saying the evidence it presented "does not call the overall results into question".

"The Constitutional Court has dismissed the electoral litigation appeal brought by the political party UNITA," the court said in a summary of its decision.

The August 24 elections -- the most hotly contested in the oil-rich country since its first multi-party vote in 1992 -- saw the long-ruling MPLA win, but with a significantly reduced majority.

Opposition parties and civic groups have said the vote was marred by irregularities.

Ahead of the ruling, five opposition parties including UNITA said they planned to stage "peaceful and orderly" protests to channel the electorate's disappointment with the results.

The parties condemned "serious anomalies" in the vote tally and said they reserved the right to file further legal challenges, without elaborating.

Results declared last week gave the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which has traditionally wielded control over the electoral process, 51.17 percent of the vote, handing Lourenco, 68, a second term.

A swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for September 15.

UNITA -- a former rebel movement that fought a bitter 27-year civil war against the MPLA government that ended in 2002 -- made significant gains, earning 43.95 percent of the vote, up from 26.67 percent at the previous election in 2017.

But earlier this week, UNITA leader Adalberto Costa Junior said a partial parallel count suggested his party had come ahead, winning 49.5 percent against 48.2 percent for the MPLA.

In their preliminary reports, foreign observers from Africa praised the peaceful conduct of the polls but raised concerns ranging from press freedom to the accuracy of the electoral roll.

The vote was for the National Assembly, where the winning party automatically chooses the president. As a result, Lourenco, who took over from long-term ruler Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2017, returns for a second five-year term.

The MPLA has been the only party to govern Angola since the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

But the latest elections saw the party suffer its poorest-ever showing, down from its share of 61 percent of the vote in 2017.

UNITA -- the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) -- has proved popular in urban areas and among young voters who want change for the country's struggling economy.

It did particularly well in Luanda, where it won a majority, taking the capital away from the MPLA for the first time.

Angola is Africa's second-largest crude producer, but the oil bonanza has been accompanied by corruption and nepotism, and many Angolans remain deeply poor.