Angola: 1992 Election Results and Aftermath

Extracted from: "Angola" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 20-21.

The tensions on the eve of the elections, arising mainly from concerns about the rival armed forces, subsided when the voters turned out in large numbers to participate in the historic event on 29 and 30 September 1992. The voting took place in generally peaceful conditions. Apart from monitoring the elections, some 400 UNAVEM staff members assisted with the arrangements at nearly 6 000 polling stations. Once again, air transport played a crucial role, most aircraft and crews being assistance in kind provided by UN member states.

In addition to the UNAVEM contingent, some 400 observers from all over the world watched the activities at close hand. The consensus was that, although there were instances of irregularities, it could be ascribed to honest error and inexperience and were not serious enough to affect the elections as a legitimate expression of the will of the people. Shortly after the results were announced, on 17 October, the UN Special Envoy declared the elections as having been free and fair.

In the presidential election President dos Santos received 1.95 million or 49.6% of the total votes, just short of the absolute majority needed to avoid a second (runoff) election (see 1992 election presidential results for more detail). Jonas Savimbi came second with 1.58 million or 40% of the votes. The other nine contestants together, including the FNLA's Holden Roberto, could muster only about 10% of the nearly 4 million valid votes.

Only 12 of the 18 parties that contested the legislative election won enough votes to be allocated seats in the 220-seat National Assembly. The MPLA [Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola] came first with almost 54% of the votes and was allocated 129 seats (see Elections 1992: National Assembly results for more detail). As UNITA's [União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola] 34% of the votes gave it 70 seats, the two main opponents together gained 88% of the total vote, thereby controlling 90% of the legislative seats - a situation that held the promise of a vigorous two-party system, but was not to be. Three parties together, including the FNLA [Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola], received seven per cent of the votes and 14 seats, while seven parties, with a combined 3.8% of the votes, got one seat each. There were six tail-enders that, together, won 1,3% of the votes but no seats.

The percentage poll in both elections, presidential and legislative, was a most satisfactory 91%, though the comparatively large number of spoilt ballot papers (458 000 or over 10% of the votes cast) was disappointing, perhaps reflecting on the limited time and resources available for voter education. Yet there was no doubt that the high voter turnout reflected the yearning of a war-ravaged populace for peace and stability.

Interestingly, the votes in the presidential election for dos Santos were about 171 000 less than the total votes cast for the MPLA in the National Assembly election, a factor that prevented dos Santos from gaining more than 50% of the total vote and therefore necessitated a second round of the presidential election, which has not taken place to this day. In contrast, Savimbi did much better than his party by winning 232 000 more votes than UNITA did and was just about 390 000 votes short of the 50% mark. Nevertheless, Savimbi would have needed virtually all of the 408 000 votes garnered by the other presidential candidates to have stood a chance to gain an absolute majority, had a second round taken place. Some observers ascribed Savimbi's better performance than his party to his forceful and emotional oratorical style, compared with the rather colourless image projected by dos Santos, though others argued that the UNITA leader's theatricals and insubstantial speeches also counted against him.

The trends revealed by the election to the National Assembly were largely similar than those observed in the presidential election. As could be expected, UNITA and the MPLA won overwhelmingly in their traditional areas of support. UNITA gained majorities in only four provinces - Benguela, Bié, Huambo and Kwando Kubango, which nevertheless accounted for 32% of the total number of valid votes. The MPLA's traditional support areas in Bengo, Kwanza Norte, Luanda and Malanje accounted for 30% of the national total of valid votes cast. The decisive factor against UNITA was the MPLA's comfortable to large majorities in most of the other ten provinces, including the Ovimbundu-dominated provinces of Huila and Kwanza Sul.

Moreover, in the four UNITA strongholds more voters voted against UNITA than was the case in the four MPLA strongholds where comparatively less voters voted against the MPLA. The results showed that all ethnic groups, except the Ovimbundu voted massively against UNITA. In three provinces smaller ethnically based parties fared better than UNITA. In Zaire Province Holden Roberto's FNLA received only 187 less votes than the MPLA. The Party for Social Renewal (RPS) came second, after the MPLA in the northern and southern Lunda provinces. The results revealed substantial support for UNITA in the northeastern Uige Province.