INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Angola: Samakuva Re-Elected for Unita Party

Published: Mon 23 Jul 2007 07:13 AM
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R 230713Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY LUANDA
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INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
UNCLAS LUANDA 000756
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TAGS: PGOV KDEM AO
SUBJECT: ANGOLA: SAMAKUVA RE-ELECTED FOR UNITA PARTY
PRESIDENT
REF: LUANDA 0651
1. (SBU) Summary: Incumbent UNITA President Isaias Samakuva
trounced rival Abel Chivukuvuku in the party elections held
on July 19. In an electoral process designed to position
UNITA as the only party prepared to bring transparency and
democracy to Angola, the 1,076 delegates to UNITA's 10th
Party Congress voted by an overwhelming margin to re-elect
incumbent party president Isaias Samakuva for a second four
year term. Though the race was labeled too close to call at
the outset, internal political maneuvering by the incumbent
Samakuva's campaign ensured his victory before the Congress'
opening session. The results notwithstanding, it's too early
to discount the younger and more charismatic Chivukuvuku from
moving into the party leadership at a later date. End
summary.
Why Samukuva?
--------------
2. (SBU) In an unexpected landslide, Isaias Samakuva was
re-elected to a second term as UNITA party president.
Samakuva defeated rival Abel Chivukuvuku with 73.4 percent of
the votes in elections held on July 19, 2007, during UNITA's
10th Party Congress. The young, urbane and charismatic
Chivukuvuku seemed the stronger candidate when the campaign
started, but in the end didn't resonate with delegates.
Insiders pointed out that many delegates were "old-school
UNITA" members who were older, rural, and often not
well-educated. This group remains resistant to change and
fiercely loyal to Savimbi's memory; Samakuva is seen as
peacefully carrying Savimbi's legacy, whereas Chivukuvuku has
been known to criticize the party founder's actions. The
political machine that Samakuva has built over the last four
years also came into play, as provincial delegates were
selected through local administrators that owe their jobs -
and loyalty - to Samakuva. Though publicly saying the race
was still neck and neck, insiders told Poloff at the
Congress' opening session that Chivukuvuku didn't stand a
chance.
3. (SBU) In statements following the election, both
candidates praised the clean campaign and the need to move
forward as a united front as the party prepares for future
legislative elections. Samakuva played to the need to
prepare for legislative elections in his campaign; though
Chivukuvuku is seen by many as a stronger presidential
candidate due to his mass appeal, Samakuva has the
grass-roots connections and organizational skills that the
party needs for the fight to maintain or increase its seats
in Parliament.
Positioning the Party
----------------------
4. (SBU) Political maneuvering aside, UNITA made a point of
ensuring that both the campaign and electoral process were
free and transparent in a bid to position themselves as the
party to bring democracy to Angola. The Congress and
democratic angle resonated in the country's independent press
outlets. Articles pointed out that UNITA is the only party
to have regular Congresses and elected leaders, and election
was hailed as a role model for the country to follow. State
media outlets also carried news, updates, and highlights from
the Congress, though clips from speeches were generally
followed by an interview from a representative from the
ruling MPLA, extolling the party and the government's work
and progress.
5. (SBU) Comment: Chivukuvuku has every reason to take this
defeat in stride. He is still seen as UNITA's heir apparent,
and as a relatively young leader can bide his time. Party
insiders do not rule out the possibility that given a poor
showing by UNITA in the legislative elections an
extraordinary congress could be called to elect him the
party's presidential candidate. All the same, the
surprisingly large margin of defeat is an indicator that the
Luanda-based Chivukuvuku needs to build a rural base if he
intends to win the party's leadership, rather than inherit it
upon Samakuva's retirement or resignation. End comment.
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