Unita members abandon debate on constitution

Luanda - Angola's main opposition party Unita walked out of parliament on Wednesday in protest at a proposed constitution expected to end uncertainty over a long-awaited presidential election.

Fourteen members of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), all dressed in black, stood up and left the National Assembly denouncing the constitutional process as illegal and fraudulent and refusing to take part in a vote.

"We walked out because we didn't want to be part of this constitution which is a complete fraud," Unita lawmaker Raul Danda told reporters on the steps of Luanda's parliament building.

"This is a very sad day for democracy in Angola and that's why we are all wearing black, because it's like going to the graveyard to bury democracy."

Unita is unhappy with the proposed charter's plans for the abolition of presidential elections, leaving the head of state to be chosen from the top of the parliamentary list.

The party also disputes proposed laws over land ownership and national symbols like the county's flag.

The proposed constitution was drafted by a commission tasked with compiling ideas from all of Angola's parliamentary parties. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had an 81 percent majority on the commission, as it does in parliament.

Unita claims its old civil war enemy the MPLA has bulldozed opposition and public views to implement its own constitution to serve its own ends.

"The MPLA has a large majority and majorities are part of the democratic process. We accept that, but what the MPLA is doing is to use their majority to destroy democracy," Danda said.

After Unita members left the building, parliament took a short break and then resumed with the remaining lawmakers voting on specific articles in the charter.

The final vote on the document as a whole is due on Thursday.

Analysts have suggested the government is rushing the vote, which was not expected until March, in a bid to stifle debate as the country is currently hosting the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament. - Sapa-AFP


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