LISBON (Reuters) - Angola's Supreme Court has annulled the appointment of the country's electoral commission chief, a nomination which the opposition had criticised but which the ruling MPLA party defended as impartial, state news agency Angop reported on Thursday.
Angola, Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria, is set to hold an election to choose a president and lawmakers in late August or early September.
Angop cited a Supreme Court ruling, dated May 17, that cancelled the Magistrates Superior Council's appointment of Susana Ingles as head of the National Election Commission in January and also the process that led to her selection.
It also quoted a statement from the MPLA's Political Bureau saying the party will "scrupulously respect the decision" so that a new election commission head may be selected swiftly and the election held within the timetable set by the constitution.
Main opposition party UNITA and other smaller parties had criticised Ingles' appointment, saying she did not fit the legal requirements to hold the post because she is a lawyer and not a magistrate court judge, and could not be seen as independent because she is a leading member of the MPLA women's organisation, OMA.
They added that the appointment undermined the body's independence and raised tension ahead of the election.
UNITA had planned to hold nationwide demonstrations on Saturday to protest her appointment and voice demands for a free and fair election. No one at the party was available to comment on whether the protests would still go ahead.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' MPLA had maintained that Ingles' appointment had been impartial and accused the opposition of causing unnecessary instability.
The election will be only the second in Angola after a devastating 27-year civil war ended a decade ago.
Dos Santos, whose 32 years in power make him Africa's second longest-serving ruler after Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has said the vote will be fair.
The MPLA won the war against UNITA and then crushed its rivals in a 2008 election, obtaining 82 percent of the votes.
Dos Santos' government has long been accused of avoiding public scrutiny, clamping down on human rights and doing too little to fight widespread poverty and graft.