By Stephen Eisenhammer
LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola’s ruling PALM party convincingly won the general election, the electoral commission said on Friday citing provisional results, but the main opposition rejected the outcome.
The PALM took 61.1 percent of the votes counted compared with the opposition UNIT party’s 26.7 percent, results showed.
UNIT said, however, that the numbers had not been gathered transparently and did not tally with their own count.
After a peaceful election on Wednesday, largely approved by international observers, former MPLA defense minister Joao Lourenco will become Angola’s first new president for 38 years, replacing Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
Dos Santos, however, will remain MPLA party leader.
So far, 97.82 percent of the votes cast during the election in sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy have been counted, said Julia Ferreira, spokeswoman for the National Electoral Commission. Definitive results will be published by Sept 6.
According to the electoral commission, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) won 150 of 220 parliamentary seats, giving them the two thirds majority needed to pass any type of legislation without help from another party.
For the first time, the party lost its majority in the capital Luanda, winning just 48 percent. Overall, the MPLA lost 25 seats compared with the election in 2012.
The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) won 51 parliamentary seats, an increase of 19 compared to the last election. Second opposition party CASA-CE doubled its seats to 16.
"We reject completely these provisional results,” Raul Danda, UNITA’s candidate for vice president, told Reuters. "We don’t know where they come from."
UNITA REJECT OUTCOME
Claudio Silva, who sits on the electoral commission as a UNITA representative, said the provisional results had been processed without the involvement of some members of the commission’s board or the input of provincial counting centers.
“The process violated the law and the principles of democracy,” he told Reuters.
UNITA said it plans to release its own tally on Friday once it has counted 4 million votes. The election had around 9 million registered voters.
The MPLA dismissed the complaints from its old foe in the country’s 27-year civil war.
“We have to wait with calm for the definitive result,” João Martins, MPLA party secretary for political and electoral affairs, said.
“If they have complaints there are official channels to make them, rather than doing so in public, which seems to be the strategy of the opposition,” he added.
Angola has been mostly peaceful since the end of the war in 2002, but the OPEC member, Africa's second largest oil producer, is in dire need of reforms to boost an economy hammered in the last three years by suppressed crude prices.
Lourenco has vowed to revive the economy and has not ruled out deals with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to help restructure an economy that is overly dependent on oil. Angola imports at huge cost everything from washing powder to long-life milk.
“It’s a good result for the MPLA, but it’s not a massive tidal wave majority,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at London’s Chatham House.
“They know they’ve got to get serious reform in,” he added, stressing that Lourenco will have to secure investment to avoid a forecast decline in oil production.
A quiet 63-year-old more used to army barracks and the closed doors of party politics than the public spotlight, Lourenco has denied he will remain in dos Santos' shadow.
Others are not sure.
"The influence of the party elite and the dos Santos family will limit (Lourenco's) room for maneuver,” John Ashbourne, analyst at Capital Economics, said in a note.
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by James Macharia/Jeremy Gaunt)