Opposition lawmakers in Angola walked out of a parliamentary debate on Wednesday, delaying the vote on a law they say will give the ruling MPLA excessive control over a general election next year, state news agency Angop reported.
Political tensions are rising in the run-up to the election in the third quarter of 2012, which will be only the second in the oil-producing country since the end of a civil war in 2002.
Angop said lawmakers from the main opposition party UNITA, which has 16 seats in the 220-seat parliament, and two other parties declared at the start of the session they were unwilling to debate and vote on a new electoral bill.
UNITA has accused the MPLA of trying to strip the National Elections Committee of its power and eroding its independence.
A new timetable will now have to be drawn up for a vote on the bill which is likely to be approved due to the MPLA's large parliamentary majority.
The opposition should learn it is not by walking out that it will convince the electorate -- it is an act that seems like political childishness and is dangerous for democracy, Angop cited MPLA member of parliament Joao Pinto as saying.
UNITA says the government wants to control ballot box supervision and vote-counting, and the new law would allow it to appoint members to the committee, going against a constitutional requirement for the body to be independent.
Territorial Administration Minister Bornito de Sousa said on Monday the government was trying to make the election committee as independent as possible.
The MPLA will appoint nine of the 16 board members and the opposition will name the rest. None of them can be representatives of political parties, the minister said.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' MPLA, which won the civil war against UNITA and obtained 82 percent of the vote in an election two years ago, is widely expected to win the 2012 poll.
The 2010 constitution eliminated the need for presidential elections and the election next year is likely to keep the president in power for another four years.