Angola sets vote for 2012 after several delays
* Dos Santos says general election only in 2012
* Signs new constitution into law
LUANDA, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Angola will hold a general election in 2012, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said on Friday while signing into law a new constitution allowing him to extend his three-decade-long rule.
"The state should create the conditions for a general election to be held in 2012, the same year the (government's) mandate runs out," dos Santos said in a speech to members of his government and other state officials. The main opposition UNITA party and rights groups have accused dos Santos, who had promised to hold elections in 2009, of repeatedly delaying the presidential ballot in order to extend his rule.
They also are unhappy with the new constitution, which abolishes the need for a direct presidential ballot as the president will be the head of the list of the winning party in a parliamentary election.
The charter opens the way for dos Santos, 67, who has ruled the African country for 30 years and is the ruling MPLA party's 2012 presidential candidate, to remain in power for two five-year mandates that end in 2022.
"It's clear that the president is delaying elections because he wants to cling to power for several more years," UNITA spokesman Alcides Sakala said.
Angola emerged from a 27-year-long civil war in 2002 to rival Nigeria as Africa's biggest oil producer. The nation held its first post-war parliamentary election in 2008 in which the ruling MPLA party won 82 percent of the vote.
Dos Santos, branded as the "kid" when he came to power at the age of 37, is the continent's second-longest serving leader after Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. He dominates the nation's political landscape and Angolans refer to him as "the boss."
But he said the new constitution would serve as the basis for a more democratic nation.
"It represents (...) a significant advance in the consolidation of our democratic process and the creation of the conditions for a harmonious and sustainable country," he said.
Although dos Santos never won an election, he narrowly won the first round of Angola's last -- and only -- presidential vote in 1992. The controversial poll re-ignited the civil war that lasted until 2002.
Today, his family and friends hold a huge sway over Angola's economy with stakes in banks, oil firms, and private media groups. The only daily newspaper, Jornal de Angola, is government controlled.
(Writing by Henrique Almeida; editing by Michael Roddy)
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