, LUANDA, Sept 1 – President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was poised to extend his 33-year rule, as his party took a hefty lead on Saturday in this week’s vote, despite frustrations among the poor at being left out of Angola’s oil boom.
With more than half the ballots counted, his People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) took 74 percent of the vote from Friday’s general elections.
The main opposition Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) was a distant second with nearly 18 percent, and the new Casa party in third with 4.5 percent, the National Electoral Commission said.
Angolans voted Friday for 220 members of parliament, with the leader of the winning party receiving a five-year term as president. More results are expected later Saturday.
Counting began shortly after polls closed Friday, and the process was proceeding faster than expected, although the final result was only expected next week.
Angolans waited anxiously for the results, with newspaper vendors mobbed as soon as Saturday’s editions hit the streets.
Otherwise the normally vibrant capital Luanda was strangely quiet for a second day. Friday was declared a national holiday for the elections, and shops remained shuttered on Saturday while streets notorious for gridlock were mostly empty.
The MPLA, in power since independence from Portugal in 1975, took 81 percent of the vote in the last elections in 2008, the first ballot held after the 27-year civil war ended in 2002.
Dos Santos has already ruled Angola for 33 years, through the devastating civil war and then through an oil boom that over the last decade has transformed the country into one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
While his family has built a business empire, he has also ploughed billions of dollars into rebuilding the nation with new roads, schools, bridges and dams rising up from the ruins.
Public health and incomes have improved, but just over half (55 percent) of the country still lives in abject poverty, often in shacks without electricity or running water.
Resentment among young Angolans, who enviously eye the luxurious new skyscrapers filling Luanda’s skyline, has sparked protests demanding that Dos Santos step down and calling for the nation’s oil wealth to be spread more evenly.