In one of Africa's most widely watched elections in years, voters in Angola went to the polls last week to choose new members of the National Assembly. The high turnout and peaceful balloting were important steps toward democracy in a nation where less than a decade ago the leading political parties in the race confronted each other in a brutal civil war.
Millions of Angolans took part, many voting for the first time. The organizational challenges were enormous, involving 12,000 polling places and hundreds of thousands of station workers, political party poll-watchers and domestic observers.
International election observers, including 37 officials from the U.S. Embassy in Luanda, noted problems at some polling stations, but no cases of voter intimidation were seen, and several groups of observers stated that overall they found the balloting to be free and fair.
State control of the country's major media outlets gave the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA, a huge advantage in the run-up to Election Day. But the voting itself was peaceful, and when serious problems arose, such as stations running out of paper ballots, election officials extended balloting by a second day.
As the votes were counted and the MPLA's victory was clear, the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angloa, UNITA, conceded defeat to its former military adversary, voicing hopes that it will govern in the interests of all.
The stage is now set for a presidential election in Angola some time next year. The Angolan experience was an important step in that nation's ongoing transition to democracy and a vital exercise for its long-term prosperity and stability.