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Report: Free Angolan elections in doubt

  |   Aug. 13, 2008 at 7:20 AM
LUANDA, Angola, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Free, fair parliamentary elections in Angola are threatened by governmental intimidation of opposition parties and media, a human rights group said Wednesday.

"The conditions for free and fair elections start long before election day," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release Wednesday. "But less than a month before elections, it's clear Angolans aren't able to campaign free from intimidation or pressure. And unless things change now, Angolans won't be able to cast their votes freely."

Angolans will elect a new National Assembly Sept. 5, in the first elections since 1992. The Popular Liberation Movement of Angola has been in power since 1975. Presidential elections are due in 2009.

Human Rights Watch found the Angolan government failed to fully ensure the right to free elections, including the freedoms of expression and of assembly, Gagnon said.

Human Rights Watch said the government isn't fully meeting its duties as outlined in an elections document of the Southern Africa Development Community, of which Angola is a member, including providing media access and establishing an impartial electoral body, among other things.

"Angolans need to see improvements now if September's poll is to have a chance of meeting the basic requirements of a free election," Gagnon said.

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