The Electoral Silence of the Angolan Diaspora in the 2010 Constitution – The Economic Journal

In December 2018 I was in Lisbon where I had the opportunity to speak with Manuel dos Santos (member of the Reflection Platform of Angola) on the Angolan electoral system, namely on the suppression of the right to vote for the members of the Angolan diaspora. This has effectively established a silence on the critical position of Angolans abroad.

From this conversation much remained to be said. I will use the present chronicle to resume some aspects of this conversation in Lisbon. The first aspect to be highlighted is that members of the diaspora never exercised their right to vote in the Angolan elections, namely in the legislative elections of 1992 and 2008, although the circle for the Angolan communities abroad (2 deputies from the Africa circle and 1 from the rest of the world circle). This happened because the successive Angolan governments alleged lack of logistic and technical conditions to carry out this constitutional obligation.

That is to say, the deputies of the diaspora never had parliamentary seat, consecrating, in this way, a subtraction of the political and social representativeness to the Angolan citizens to live outside the country. This annulment of political representation in practice created a political and constitutional problem for the Angolan Government. Since the Constitutional Law of 1992 foresaw 223 Members, but only 220 were represented in the National Assembly. Even so, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) has never pressured the government to create the necessary conditions to fulfill this constitutional obligation. Faced with this situation, the opposition parties were always quite critical of this official position of the Government and supported by the CNE.

As the budgetary and organizational arguments were no longer enough, the three seats in the diaspora circle were eventually extinguished with the publication of the 2010 Constitution. Thus, the Angolan parliament officially passed from 223 to 220 MPs, ensuring an exclusive representation to voters living in Angola. In my opinion, a "hijacking" of a natural right of the citizen was observed by the constituent legislator dominated by the MPLA, at the time with a very comfortable majority for the approval of the Constitution of 2010.

In our opinion, this kidnapping was aimed at eliminating a blatant and aberrant unconstitutionality committed by the organizing organs of the elections (Government and CNE), on the one hand. On the other hand, it was intended to protect the image of the country led by the MPLA, and, lastly, to safeguard a safer and more comfortable electoral process for the president of the MPLA. This was because the argument about the lack of logistical conditions to prevent the vote in their diaspora was exhausted, since poorer countries than Angola were able to guarantee this right to their diasporas.

In conclusion, the electoral exclusion of the Angolan diaspora was inserted in a political strategy of perpetuation of power, thought for the benefit of a single political figure. A strategic option to remove from the political and electoral arena a critical and contestatory segment of the political course in Angola. Moreover, when, from the electoral point of view, this segment could play a significant role in the internal political dispute, because, for presidential election, a citizen in the diaspora would have the same electoral weight as a citizen voting in Angola. Thus, in a heated dispute, voters in the diaspora could provoke an effective change of power in the country.

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