Angola’s ruling party is set to extend its 42-year stay in power

Democracy at work.
Democracy at work.
Image: AP Photo/Bruno Fonseca
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For the first time in 38 years, Angola is set to have a new leader—from the same old party.

Provisional results announced by Angola’s electoral commission suggests that João Lourenço, the country’s erstwhile defense minister, is on track to become president. The ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) holds a seemingly unassailable 64.5% share of the vote, with over 70% of ballots counted. (The top candidate of the winning party becomes president.)

The MPLA’s apparent victory extends the party’s dominance of Angolan politics. It has ruled the country since its independence from Portugal in 1975. Despite opposition parties’ hopes of an unlikely victory, UNITA and CASA-CE, the country’s main opposition parties, have jointly managed slightly more than 30% of the votes counted so far.

The elections are a pivotal moment in Angolan politics, as longtime leader Jose Eduardo Dos Santos steps down after 38 years in office. Dos Santos announced he would not seek re-election at the end of last year, reportedly linked to persistent health problems. But the longtime leader isn’t walking away from politics altogether. The 74-year old will remain in charge of the MPLA and has also been granted a seat on the Council of the Republic, a presidential advisory body. His children will also retain key roles in the new government.

For his part, Lourenço has promised to tackle corruption—an enduring problem for Africa’s second-largest oil producer. But he’ll also be charged with reviving a slowing economy. Angola has been hit hard by a fall in oil prices, and has has been forced to impose budget cuts to compensate for lower revenues.