Angolan MPLA says opposition backs pre-poll protests

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 09, 2012 3:34 PM
Angolan MPLA says opposition backs pre-poll protests

LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola's ruling party, the MPLA, accused three opposition parties on Thursday of stirring up trouble before the general election on August 31 by helping civil war veterans plan protest rallies to demand payment of overdue subsidies.

The charge was a sign of rising tension in campaigning for the election, only the second since a 27-year civil war ended a decade ago in Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria.

MPLA spokesman Rui Falcao told a news conference that his party - which has been in power since Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975 and won the civil war against the rebel group UNITA - had run a fair campaign.

"Unfortunately, this hasn't been the tune followed by some of the opposition parties," he added. "It's clear in their campaign broadcasts that they want to distort and manipulate and that's what they have done with the former soldiers."

Falcao named the parties backing protest rallies as UNITA, the main opposition party, CASA-CE, formed by a former UNITA deputy leader earlier this year, and PRS, which has eight seats in parliament.

A UNITA spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

"We learned that there are plans for demonstrations, riots, on August 12 and August 18," Falcao added. "... it will be up to the state organs to act and, if necessary, restore public order."

Several thousand veterans have marched in protest rallies in the last two months, urging the government to pay overdue subsidies and pensions. Protest leaders say around 60,000 veterans are waiting for payment of the subsidies.

Police used warning shots and teargas to disperse one rally, and made several arrests after another.

The government is trying to resolve the problem but "given the large number of claims the process is not always as speedy as desired," Falcao said.

Under the constitution approved in 2010, the head of the winning party's electoral list for a parliamentary election becomes president, without a separate ballot.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for 32 years, is expected to lead his party to victory thanks to its control of state media and superior campaign resources.

UNITA has long accused Dos Santos of avoiding public scrutiny and says the MPLA is trying to rig the vote by using the national elections commission (CNE) to reduce transparency.

(Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas, editing by Tim Pearce)