Angola appoints new elections chief

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Luanda -

Angola on Tuesday named a new National Electoral Commission (CNE) president as opposition parties protested that too little time and few funds were allocated for campaigning before August polls.

The oil-rich country's judicial commission, the Superior Judicial Council, unanimously chose Andre da Silva Neto, a 64-year-old Supreme Court judge, to head the CNE, it said in a resolution.

Neto succeeds Suzana Ingles, a lawyer whose appointment was declared invalid in May because she didn't qualify for the post, which is reserved for judges.

The southern African country goes to polls on August 31, when the ruling MPLA is almost guaranteed victory under President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Africa's longest-ruling leader at 33 years in power.

New elections chief Neto, magistrate since 1986, beat out six other candidates for the post. He was deputy governor of northern Uige province from 1986 to 1990.

Opposition parties in general pledged cooperation, but others questioned Neto's objectivity.

“Because of his senior position in the judiciary, it's clear he is close to the (government) power,” said Serra Bango of rights group Justice, Peace and Democracy Association (AJPD).

Meanwhile the 77 parties and seven coalitions that plan to run complained to parliamentary affairs Minister Norberto dos Santos that the 9 million kwanza ($95,000, 76,000 euros) and two weeks allocated to collect voter signatures were inadequate.

They have to collect 15,000 signatures by 19 June to secure a place on the ballot list.

“We think the issues of financing for political parties and candidate applications should have been solved before the head of state called for elections so that all parties can prepare well for the polls,” said Lindo Bernando, vice president of the new Casa party, which splintered from Unita in January.

Norberto told AFP “there will be a second payment only to parties which satisfy constitutional requirements to take part in the elections.”

The August vote will be the third since independence from Portugal in 1975. The MPLA took 81% in the last elections in 2008. The head of the winning party becomes president. - Sapa-AFP


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