Angola’s poll ‘cooked from the start’
Luanda - Angolan opposition and civil society organisations say that the ruling MPLA has already secured victory in the August 31 legislative elections, largely by ensuring that a Spanish company widely accused of manipulating the 2008 elections got the contract to run this month’s poll too.
At least one SA company bid for the contract but was disqualified on questionable grounds, sources said.
Leading opposition party Unita has threatened to quit the race and challenge the results if the National Electoral Commission (CNE) “does not change its behaviour”.
Unita and other opposition parties are questioning the impartiality and transparency of a Spanish company, Indra-Sistemas SA, which the electoral commission has hired to supply ballots and other equipment and to run the logistics of the polls.
“In the 2008’s elections Indra – Sistemas SA printed 26 million ballots while the electoral commission only needed 10 million. Where did the remaining 16 million ballots go?” Unita president Isaias Samakuva recently asked at a news conference in the capital Luanda.
Samakuva said Indra – Sistemas SA could not be trusted as it had also distributed voting material based on a different mapping from that provided by the CNE in the 2008 elections.
“We have no doubt that Indra came to Angola to fulfil the personal interests of [President] Jose Eduardo dos Santos and not those of the country,” he said.
USAID, the US’s government development agency, held Indra-Sistemas SA accountable for much of the mess in the 2008 election when polling stations, mainly in Unita’s strongholds, never got ballots.
CNE picked Indra – Sistemas SA again for this year’s election after a tender bid for contractors that remained open for a weekend. It was made public on June 8 in a notice only published in the government-run daily Jornal de Angola.
The advertisement called on local and foreign companies to bid for the election contract but by Monday the bidding was already closed.
Some companies were caught off guard by the short notice and others by what seemed to be deliberate ambiguity about the tender notices which were presented the CNE as calls for mere “manifestations of interest.”
The SA company Equipro nevertheless managed to submit a full tender, with a 30-page spreadsheet detailing all tendering services and their prices. It was inexplicably disqualified, according to sources, along with several others.
Equipro appealed against the decision on the grounds of the flawed tender process, but failed to reverse the decisions.
The sources said the company had asked President Jacob Zuma to put in a good word for them to Dos Santos during a SADC summit in Luanda at the time.
Another SA company, Worldwide Integrated Logistics, planned to apply for the contract, Angolan sources said, but it was not clear if it eventually did.
The Angolan government is putting out the word that Equipro “pulled out” of the tender process.
“The whole process has been cooked from the start and this is why the disinformation agents are now telling everyone that Equipro ‘pulled out’, a veteran Angolan analyst said.
“So the whole election will be another mockery of democracy in Africa.”
Earlier this week CNE dismissed the fraud allegations, saying they were “irresponsible” and “ignorant” and said it expected the electoral agents of all parties “to contribute to the process in a patriotic way”.
“CNE calls on the parties and coalitions to quit taking stands that disturb the whole process that is being prepared in a fair and transparent way,” it added.
In June, several civil society organisations wrote to the European Parliament, calling for an investigation of Indra’s operations in Angola.
“The hiring of Indra is evidence of a non-transparent plan for the management of the electoral process,” their letter said.
“As the campaign starts we will be accused of fraud, but we the strong do not need fraud,” Dos Santos told a crowd in the eastern province of Moxico.
Four parties and five coalitions will run in the August 31 elections, the second since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002.
The poll will elect 220 members to Parliament.
The new Parliament will then elect the president and vice-president of the republic as the country’s new constitution, passed in 2010, abolished direct presidential elections.