Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What happened with e-voting in Angola?

Photo by Elections 360 via Flickr

The 2012 elections in Angola was marred with a myriad of doubts. Intimidation of opposition candidates, media personalities, election authorities and international observers characterised the political process. The developments portrayed downright electoral fraud, and very few individuals expected free and fair elections.

In recent months news came out that the Spanish Tax Agency fined the company Indra Sistemas S.A. as part of an investigation for the payment of illegal commissions of 2.4 million euros, carried out under the Angolan presidential elections of 2012. Six years later, this investigation has re-open the “Pandora box” of uncertainties surrounding the election process.

Angola’s hope: e-voting

Conventionally, the conditions that facilitate free and fair elections often begin long before Election Day. Nonetheless, within 30 days to the 2012 elections, it was explicit that Angolans were not ready as they could not campaign freely without pressure or intimidation.

The hostility escalated to worrying levels a week toward the election date prompting some patriots and the international community to advice on the postponement of the election date. The electoral body appeared compromised and overwhelmed by the unfolding chaos in the entire circle of national leadership.

The previous election had been associated with widespread rigging and widespread electoral irregularities, which had taken a significant amount of time and financial resources to set strategies in place to curb a repeat. Angolans and the entire continent had been tired of the post-election violence whenever voting concluded with massive uncertainties.

By 2012, Angolans had been psychologically prepared to participate freely in voting for a new National Assembly, and it was going to be their first time to adopt electronic voting. Given that the elections were conducted electronically, there was significant hope for more secure, reliable and transparent ballots, and that post-election convolution would be a thing of the past.

However, when everything seemed wrong with the way campaigns were being conducted, voters saw red flags. The outcome of the elections undermined the independence of the EMB, as most election stakeholders doubted they were free and fair. From massive rigging claims to outright manipulation of results, it appeared the instigation of the electronic voting process was deceiving to the citizens.

Indra’s case

Regarding the election technology provider investigation, the Angolan jurist William Tonet revealed on Radio Despertar, that the company “Indra Sistemas is one of the institutions that had connotations with the Angolan political power that fled taxation in their countries. We had already denounced, in 2012 and 2018, that some companies associated with the government ran engaging in certain types of business. The elections are no longer an act of citizenship and nobility to be a real business.”

Indra organised the logistics of the Angolan presidential elections of 2008, 2012 and 2017.

According to a 2018 investigation in El Confidencial (Spanish outlet), “The Dos Santos regime was always receptive to closing deals with Spanish companies. Indra Sistemas has been one of those companies graced with contracts negotiated without competition or thanks to direct awards.”

The newspaper states that during the organisation of the elections of 2012, “Indra had fictitiously increased by 9.8 million euros the price of the 14 charter planes transporting electoral material to Angola, for the payment of commissions. The 2018 Spanish Tax Agency investigation finally concluded that the unjustified figure was 2.4 million euros, and the matter was settled.”

Until now, it remains unclear all the procedural details in the Angolan 2012 elections. Even if the 2017 general elections had already brought new perspectives to the country, perpetual talks are ongoing to address election integrity. It will continue to be newsworthy how transparency of EMBs and election providers can help spare African nations from imminent post-election chaos.