Angola’s ruling party MPLA flagbearer João Lourenço Wednesday said he was confident of winning the presidential contest.
Mr Lourenço expressed the sentiments after casting his ballot at the Law School of the Universidade Agostinho Neto in Luanda.
“Now I am going back home and will follow up from my house, afterwards I will join my comrades at the party headquarters,” he said after casting his ballot at around 8.28am local time.
Outgoing President José Eduardo dos Santos cast his ballot at the Escola São José de Cluny at Baixa de Luanda at Kinaxixi municipality at 8:38am.
He then proceeded to address journalists.
The main opposition Unita’s presidential candidate, Isais Samakuva, cast his ballot at the Universidade Óscar Ribas, in Talatona municipality.
“It is with a feeling of the right accomplishment, we need to exercise our rights so that we have a country that is more serious and devoid of lies and disorganisation,” Mr Samakuva said after voting.
Former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, who is the head of the Portuguese speaking observation team, said the process was running smoothly.
“We have some evidence that the elections will be peaceful,” he said.
At a weekend rally in front of thousands of MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) supporters, President Dos Santos, 74, made a brief appearance to endorse Mr Lourenco.
“The president brought forward his departure to after these elections due to his deteriorating health,” Alex Vines, of the Chatham House think-tank in London, told AFP.
READ: Santos ends 38-year rule in Angola
“Mr Lourenco is an ideal transitional successor to President Dos Santos. He is respected by the military and has not lived a flamboyant lifestyle of many others.”
Mr Dos Santos has been dogged by reports of illness, with his regular visits to Spain for “private” reasons fuelling criticism that the state of his health was being hidden from ordinary Angolans.
Earlier this year, his daughter Isabel — who has become a billionaire and Africa’s richest businesswoman under his rule — was forced to deny rumours that he had died in Spain.
In the face of ruthless security force crackdowns and a biased state-run media, the opposition parties — led by Unita and Casa-CE — have sought to tap into public anger at the government. “You who are suffering, you who are in poverty, without electricity, without jobs or nothing to eat — change is now,” Mr Samakuva, told supporters on the campaign trail.
Mr Samakuva, 71, took over Unita after long time rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in 2002, a death that marked the beginning of the end of the civil war.
Dissent has often been dangerous under President Dos Santos, who has been a secretive but inescapable presence in Angolan life for decades.
Angola’s next leader “must guide the country out of the spiral of oppression,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
“Mr Dos Santos’s presidency has been marked by his appalling human-rights record.
For decades, Angolans have lived in a climate of fear in which speaking out was met with intimidation (and) imprisonment.”
“I voted for those who will solve the problems of this country,” Rui Francisco Joao, a 33-year-old blacksmith who supports the MPLA, told AFP.
“Our party has made some mistakes but we will change.”
The MPLA, which won the 2012 election with a 72 percent margin, has funded a rush of infrastructure projects, apparently to shore up support levels among Angola’s 9.3 million registered voters.