Angolans begin to embrace Internet for elections
August 31st marked Angola’s third general elections since 1975 (the others being in 1992 and 2008). Angola is widely known to be a one party dominant state, and the incumbent president José Eduardo dos Santos will almost certainly win another term with his party, Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, remaining in control of parliament. Of course, Angolan politics are hardly fair and have a long way to advance until the system can be considered a true democracy. As Paula Roque, an Angola expert at the University of Oxford, points out to the Mail & Guardian, the 2012 elections will serve to motivate the political opposition in advance of the next elections.
Additionally, the 2012 Angolan general election served as a foray into how the Internet can ease the flow of communications. Voting irregularities were monitored online by a third party (they did not use Ushahidi) and the National Electoral Commission used the Internet and iPads to certain degrees of success. However, social media seemed relatively tame (but perhaps we’re limited with the language barrier). Keep in mind the vast majority of information delivered domestically in Angola comes via state-controlled media. After all, Internet access remains in low double-digit percentage figures.
Five examples of how Angolans utilized (or attempted to utilize) the Internet to advance the transparency of the 2012 general elections:
- Citizens have reported electoral irregularities on Eleições Angola 2012. The site is simple HTML, but was updated in near real-time throughout the day. So far, essentially no incidences of violence are listed.
- Opposition parties had objected that the National Electoral Commission did not publish the electoral roll. However, the commission said it had sent people information by SMS messages to mobile phones and had published the information on the Internet.
- News24 reports that volunteers from the National Electoral Commission greeted voters in the Boa Vista district with iPads and printers to scan registration cards and guide voters to a booth.
- A Gallup poll cited by African Media Initiative found that Internet and smartphones eroded a government monopoly on information control. The poll found that only 16% of Angolans gave Santos a thumbs-up rating.
- A variety of Facebook groups (and even an app) are devoted to the elections, although participation seems lower than expected.
How will future elections hold up as voters put memories of civil war behind and instead look at current woes? Is Angola only becoming more economically corrupt? Can 4G access and decreased Internet costs enable the information access (plus literacy) necessary to change such an authoritarian regime? Many youth have rallied around social media in the past year to protest growing crackdowns by the government. The youth contingent could very well be influential by the time the next general elections come around in four years’ time.