Angola's ruling party claims victory in election

LUANDA - Angola's ruling party said on Thursday it won a majority in the country's election with five million votes counted so far, opening the way for the defence minister to succeed President Jose Eduardo dos Santos after his 38-year rule, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.

The ruling 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' headquarters in Luanda, the capital. Martins said Defence Minister Joao Lourenco would therefore succeed 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.

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

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.

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

Dos Santos, 74, is expected to remain ruling party leader, though there are concerns about his health since he received medical treatment in Spain this year.

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