LUANDA, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Angolan voters are heading to polling stations Wednesday to elect the southern African country's new president as well as members of the National Assembly.
According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE), a total of 14.3 million voters have been registered and are expected to cast ballots in what's expected to be the most competitive election since 1992.
Voting at the country's more than 13,000 polling stations started at 7 a.m. local time with the exercise to be concluded within the day.
CNE Spokesperson Lucas Quilundo said in the morning that the electoral process is running smoothly and that all polling stations are operational with voting taking place in an orderly manner and without incidents of any kind being registered so far.
In downtown Luanda, the capital city, traffic on roads is visibly smooth on the election day as voters are queuing patiently for their turns to cast the votes.
At the polling station at TiTi Helena School located in Viana, a bustling town about one hour's drive from downtown Luanda, voters are seen in long queues waiting patiently to cast their ballots. Meanwhile, temporary staff members working for the CNE are helping provide guidance to voters and check their credentials. About half a dozen of policemen are also on the site.
Local media reported that the National Police of Angola has mobilized more than 80,000 security personnel to maintain order during the election period.
The president of the CNE, Manuel da Silva, said earlier that he believed Angolans will flock to the polls in the elections and demonstrate respect for public institutions.
He said that after the official results of the provisional and definitive tabulation are announced, the world will know that Angola is a democracy in full affirmation.
Manuel da Silva praised the civic spirit demonstrated by Angolans during the election campaign, adding that the CNE and its partners know the regulatory security standards, will master the best practices, and apply the maximum security measures to minimize possible incidents.
He said the CNE is the only legal entity to handle the national tabulation and disclose the official provisional and final results.
Election observers from organizations including the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the European Union, and the Organization of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, have been invited and deployed to monitor Angola's general elections.
This year, seven political parties and a coalition are contesting the elections as they vie for 220 seats in the National Assembly. Out of the 220 seats, 130 are elected from the national lists of the parties, and the remaining 90 are elected based on provincial lists, with each of the 18 provinces in the country electing five deputies.
Incumbent President Joao Lourenco of the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), who is seeking a second term in office, will mainly face a challenge from Adalberto Costa Junior, leader of the country's largest opposition, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The MPLA had won all the previous elections held in 1992, 2008, 2012 and 2017, respectively.
MPLA leader Joao Lourenco on Wednesday voted at Polling Station 105 in the urban district of Ingombota in downtown Luanda, while UNITA leader Adalberto Costa voted at Polling Station 805, located in the capital city's urban district of Nova Vida.
The election this year will also include the participation of overseas voters, with some 22,560 citizens expected to vote from abroad. The expansion of voting rights to the diaspora, who are voting for the first time, also feeds into expectations of greater competitiveness.
The 2022 general election has been deemed the most competitive because many voters that will vote for the first time were born in a post-conflict period. Observers say that this is also the first time the largest opposition party UNITA is seeing good chances in the elections because most of the young people have called for change, as they cry for job opportunities and improvement in their living conditions.
The president is not directly elected. In accordance with the Angolan constitution, the top candidate of a political party that wins the most votes is elected as president.
The president is elected for the same term as members of the National Assembly and may serve a maximum of two terms. Each participating party nominates a presidential candidate at top of its list, who must be clearly identified on the ballot paper.
The other six parties contesting the election are the National Front for the Liberation of Angola, the Nationalist Party for Justice in Angola, the Humanist Party of Angola, the Social Renewal Party, the National Patriotic Alliance and the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola-Electoral Coalition.
Africa's major economy Angola has an estimated population of 33.93 million, according to World Bank data. The oil-rich country overtook Nigeria as the largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa from May to July this year, according to data from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. ■