After thirty-eight years under Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola goes to the polls on Wednesday, August 23 to choose a new president. At the closing rally, Dos Santos told over 350,000 supporters he was confident of a victory by the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Unusually for Africa, the election looks set to mark a peaceful and democratic change of leadership.
MPLA's new candidate
Dos Santos, popularly known as Zedu, is the political heir of MPLA founder Agostinho Neto, who guided Angola to independence from Portugal in 1975. He has run the southern African country for 38 years, including 27 years of civil war against forces backed by apartheid-era South Africa, which the MPLA won with Cuban support, and managed the transition to peace and multi-party democracy. The organisation’s new presidential candidate, Joao Lourenco, 63, comes from the coastal city of Lobito in the central province of Benguela. Married with six children, he underwent military training in the former Soviet Union, and served as political commissioner of the MPLA’s revolutionary army, the FPLA. He was head of information, party secretary, head of the MPLA parliamentary group and first vice president of the national assembly from 1998 to 2003. Lourenco was appointed defence minister in April 2014. Under the constitution, the leader of the party winning a majority in the election automatically becomes the new president and head of government.
The other candidates
While Lourenco is the firm favourite, there are five other candidates: Isais Samavuka, of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA, the second largest party by number of votes, which has historically been the MPLA’s opposition); Abel Chivukuvuku who, just before the 2012 elections, defected from UNITA, formed his own coalition, CASA-CE, and made it the third biggest party; Lucas Gonda of the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola); Benedito Daniel of the Social Renewal Party (PRS); and Quintino Moreira of the National Patriotic Alliance (APN).