Angola elects the next president and its international alliances at the polls

The population of the African country will define the new administration in an electoral process where eight formations compete, but only two have a real chance of winning. The 14.4 million citizens will decide a second term for João Lourenço -related to Russia- or the first in history for the center-right bloc Unita, supported by the US. Analysts estimate that it will be the closest race since independence and where the young vote could be decisive.

This Wednesday, August 24, 14.4 million Angolans are eligible to go to the polls and define who will be the next president for the next five years, in elections where international alliances can be modified, but the current political course would not change.

Starting at 7:00 am – local time – the 26,443 tables distributed in 13,238 polling stations opened so that civilians can cast their vote until 5:00 p.m. It will be the first time that Angolans abroad can vote.

According to a spokesman for the National Electoral Commission (CNE), the mid-morning session took place in an “orderly and peaceful manner.”

On Tuesday, the president of the CNE, Manuel Pereira da Silva, publicly asked citizens to go to the voting centers and avoid behaviors that disturb public order.

Those registered will have to choose between the seven parties and a coalition, which compete for the 220 seats in the National Assembly, although only two maintain concrete chances of winning. The Constitution indicates that the referent of the space that retains the most seats will be the president.

A view of a ballot paper during the general elections in Luanda, Angola, August 24, 2022.
A view of a ballot paper during the general elections in Luanda, Angola, August 24, 2022. © Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

On the one hand, there is the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) led by the current president, Joao Lourenco, who is aiming for a second term. His management was marked by criticism of the high levels of inflation, poverty and unemployment.

However, polls put him 7% ahead of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), the center-right party headed by Adalberto Costa Junior.

Since Luanda became independent from Portugal in 1975, the MPLA has been the only one that has governed the country; while Unita has been their antagonist and they waged a civil war that lasted until 2002.

Estimates show that young people, a marginalized group in the oil boom, can skew the results. With Costa Júnior as a popular figure among the younger players, where about half are undecided, dominance in that age group can tighten the results.

Lourenço voted in the first hour of these elections. In the polling station located at Lusíada University, in Luanda, he stressed the importance of participating in the elections. “In the end, we all win, it is democracy that wins, it is Angola that wins,” he said.

Minutes later, Costa Júnior did the same at the Estrela da Manhã School. “Today is a historic day, it is a day in which I hope that everyone votes in an atmosphere of absolute tranquility, with respect for the laws and we can continue with the party that is the elections,” he emphasized.

Change of alliances, not course

In addition to defining the new president, the citizens of Angola will also be in charge of deciding whether the African country continues with the MPLA, closely linked to Moscow -although it has been neutral regarding the war in Ukraine- or if it opts for the Unita supported by United States.

Costa Júnior, who emphatically condemned the Russian invasion, made trips to Brussels and Washington in the weeks leading up to the election, where he garnered support and forged potential ties with the West.

Last March, Vladimir Tararov – Moscow’s ambassador to Angola – highlighted Luanda’s neutrality and criticized Unita for wanting to emphasize that “it is with the West, the so-called civilized countries”.

Lourenço, who tried rapprochement with allies during his tenure, has even asked to enter a trade agreement with the European Union, a possibility that will be debated in the coming months.

However, he still remains close to the Kremlin. In fact, Angola abstained from supporting the United Nations motion when they condemned the war in Ukraine.

On the national scene there do not seem to be abrupt changes, whoever the new president may be.

Being one of the most robust economies on the continent thanks to the fact that it is the second largest oil producer in Africa and the seventh largest producer of rough diamonds in the world, the change from nationalization to privatization will continue.

Both the MPLA and Unita designed similar proposals aimed at diversifying the economy and the tax base away from oil, deepening areas such as renewable energy, fishing and tourism.

Abandoning the socialist legacy of state companies, Angola plans to continue with the restructuring of state oil company Sonangol and diamond miner Endiama.

After five years in recession, Luanda sees a progressive economic improvement. In 2021 its GDP increased by 0.7% -reported by the World Bank- and the Ministry of Finance expects a growth of 2.7%.

Although it is still very high and continues to be one of the main criticisms of Lourenço, inflation has fallen, but remains above 20%. However, some of these indices have improved at the cost of higher gasoline prices in a context where half the population lives in poverty.

With EFE and Reuters

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