Lawmakers from the Angolan opposition party UNITA walked out of a key parliament debate on Tuesday, accusing the ruling MPLA of undermining the independence of the national elections committee ahead of a ballot next year, state news agency Angop reported.
The move is likely to raise tensions in the run-up to next year's general election, which will be only the second in the oil-producing country after the end of a long civil war in 2002.
UNITA, the second biggest party in parliament with 16 seats, said the MPLA pushed through a set of electoral laws that strip the National Elections Committee (CNE) of any real power, transferring control of election logistics to the government.
"(With these laws) the control of the electoral process is with the government, while the CNE retains mere formalities," UNITA said in a statement published on its website.
It added that ownership of the electoral roll files would move to the government, which would also control ballot box supervision and vote counting.
UNITA said that the new electoral laws will allow the government to appoint members to the CNE, thus running against a constitution that requires the body be fully independent.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' MPLA, which won the civil war against UNITA and obtained 82 percent of the vote in elections two years ago, approved a motion to support the new electoral laws with 157 votes.
It said the legislation would lead to free, fair, and transparent elections, and accused UNITA of blocking the democratic process due to its weak position.
"We are not here to receive lessons in democracy from UNITA. They either walk out, like they did with the constitution (vote of 2010), or they present absolutely improper proposals," MPLA parliamentary bench leader Virgilio de Fontes Pereira said in a statement published on the party's website.
The 2010 constitution eliminated the need for presidential elections -- a ballot which Dos Santos had regularly postponed -- with the general election next year likely to keep the president in power for another four years.
Early campaigning for the election started with UNITA last year accusing the government of inertia in fighting poverty and corruption, with the MPLA responding by saying the opposition party was inciting civil unrest.