LUANDA, Nov 1 (Reuters) Angola could hold national elections as early as May next year, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was quoted as saying today.
''The President of the republic will likely call the elections for the period between May and August, and possibly September of 2008,'' state newspaper Jornal de Angola quoted him as saying at the end of a visit to Mozambique.
Dos Santos, who took power in 1979, said the country's process of electoral registration had been completed, with around eight million Angolans out of its total population of around 16 million eligible to vote in the ballot.
Opposition parties and foreign observers have questioned whether the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government is willing to risk facing millions of voters who have benefited only marginally from Angola's oil-fuelled economic boom.
The country has not held a national election since a disastrous 1992 presidential race was aborted after the first round, leading to the resumption of a 27-year civil war.
Dos Santos' government has delayed the polls several times, citing the poor condition of roads and other infrastructure as reasons. Western diplomats and executives generally agree that there were nagging doubts whether he would risk a free election.
Dos Santos is widely expected to run for another term, and his officials have shied away from setting dates for the polls since committing to holding them in 2008 and 2009.
There are fears the elections, if delayed again or seen to be illegitimate, could widen the political divide that has existed since the end in 2002 of the conflict between the MPLA and rebels from the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNI