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Angola's ruling party 'claims victory in election'

Angola's ruling party said it won a majority in the country's election with five million votes counted so far, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.

If confirmed, the result would open the way for the defence minister to succeed President Jose Eduardo dos Santos after his 38-year rule.

The MPLA party concluded it had won Wednesday's election after reviewing data relayed by its delegates from polling stations nationwide, said Joao Martins, a senior official at the party's headquarters in the capital Luanda.

Mr Martins said Defence Minister Joao Lourenco would therefore succeed Mr dos Santos, who took power in 1979, according to Lusa.

The report came as the main opposition UNITA party alleged that police fired shots and made arrests near some polling stations as people voted in Huambo city.

Election officials, however, said the vote went smoothly despite minor problems and delays.

About 9.3 million Angolans were registered to vote for the 220-member National Assembly; the winning party then selects the president.

Mr Lourenco, 63, is a former governor who fought in the war against Portuguese colonial rule as well as the long civil war that ended in 2002.

He has pledged to fight corruption and is seen as a symbol of stability and even incremental change.

Oil-rich Angola is beset by widespread poverty, corruption and human rights concerns, although some analysts believe new leadership could open the way to more accountability.

Critics, however, point to entrenched patronage networks benefiting an elite that includes Isabel dos Santos, the president's daughter and head of the state oil company Sonangol, and Jose Filomeno dos Santos, a son in charge of the country's sovereign wealth fund.

Mr dos Santos, 74, is expected to remain ruling party leader, although there have been concerns about his health since he received medical treatment in Spain this year.

Angolan rights activists have alleged that the ruling MPLA party unfairly used state machinery ahead of Wednesday's election, noting that most media coverage focused on the MPLA campaign.

Opposition parties have said there were irregularities ahead of the voting.

Election observers from other African countries monitored the vote, but the European Union did not send a fully-fledged observer mission because it said the Angolan government wanted to impose restrictions, including limited access to polling stations around the country.

AP

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