LUANDA - The Associated Press
Hundreds of people waited in line Friday as technical problems at several polling stations in the capital delayed the start of voting in Angola's first election since 1992.
Turnout was enthusiastic in Luanda, the capital, but some polling stations were still closed at 10 a.m., three hours after they were to have opened.
More than 8 million people in this southern African nation of over 16 million were registered to vote. Differences over the results of the last national vote in 1992 threw Angola back into civil war.
Friday's logistical difficulties were unsurprising. Angola is rich in diamonds and oil, but little of that money has trickled down to repair dilapidated roads or antiquated power stations, and most people still live in poverty.
Still, the campaign had been relatively peaceful, stoking hope that Angola may finally be on the way to peace and prosperity. Members of the 220-seat parliament were being chosen Friday. Angola's presidential elections are expected next year.
"We have now started a new political era, a new way of using politics to obtain our goals," President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who had repeatedly put off the vote citing logistical difficulties, said as he voted in Luanda. He said the new era would be built on "respect for freedom and the rights of everyone to express their point of view."
Dos Santos's Popular Liberation Movement of Angola is accused by international human rights groups of corruption and mismanagement. But it campaigned on promises to keep transforming a nation destroyed by civil war, and was expected to retain control of parliament.
Results from the vote were expected next week.
The opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola - or UNITA - has urged impoverished Angolans to vote for change. But the opposition is linked in the minds of many Angolans to the horrors of war that left an estimated 1 million dead and hundreds of millions orphaned or maimed.
One war legacy is the 8 million or so land mines still buried here, which kill or injure at least 300 people a year, according to the United Nations.
Fighting broke out after independence from Portugal in 1975 and ended in 2002 when the army killed UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi.
Dos Santos beat Savimbi in the first round of the 1992 presidential election, but Savimbi refused to accept defeat and returned to war before the second round could be held.