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Where’s the party in Angola?

September 11, 2008

Resident students from Angola wave national flags as Angola's President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos's motorcade drives past after his arrival at Havana's Jose Marti airport September 20, 2007. REUTERS/Claudia DautIf anyone had a reason to paint the town red, it would seem to be Angolans after their first election in 16 years.

While certainly not perfect, the poll was peaceful and free of the strife that marred others recently in Africa.

But there have been no street celebrations or triumphant rallies and no chest-thumping on the part of the governing MPLA, which won nearly 82 percent of the vote in the two-day parliamentary poll. Former rebels UNITA were a distant second.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the MPLA leader, has not commented publicly about the results.

The best that officials have come up with to mark the victory is a motocross race on Sunday in Malange, 450 km (280 miles) east of the capital Luanda.

The sport is about as popular in this tropical country as ice hockey.

Although the UNITA opposition complained during the election campaign that its supporters were intimidated and state media was giving the MPLA free propaganda, it did concede defeat.

Many people are surprised at how quickly Angola has returned to business as usual.
But some Angolans are disappointed.

“Life is very hard here. We voted last week with dignity and that should be celebrated with a holiday,” said Vladimiro Dala, a 35-year-old MPLA supporter who earns $200 a month guarding and washing cars.

There was speculation the government, flush with money from booming oil production, would declare a holiday and light up the Luanda skyline with fireworks.

The government has dismissed the suggestion.

“We have work to do,” MPLA spokesman Norberto dos Santos told reporters when asked if Friday would be declared a holiday.

That and the government’s generally sober response to the election rout may be a recognition of the enormous challenge still ahead in governing a country gutted during nearly three decades of civil war that ended in 2002.

Might it also be a sign of growing political maturity in a country that has suffered so much?

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