The party that ruled Angola for nearly four decades, amassing a vast fortune from the production of oil while its 29 million citizens were consigned to poverty, declared victory in last week’s national elections – but victory was not sweet.
The nation’s two largest opposition parties rejected provisional results in which the incumbent Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) received a majority of votes.
Cesinanda Xavier, vice president of the opposition party Casa-Ce, remarked: “We don’t believe that a people looking for change would give a majority of votes to the MPLA.”
Earlier, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), charged that provisional results did not tally with their own parallel count that used polling station records and computer software.
Neither the European Union nor the U.S. sent formal observer teams for the election which was monitored by the South African Development Community and the African Union.
Julia Ferreira, a spokeswoman for the electoral commission, defended the vote count as “done in an open way.”
Angola’s president-elect, Joao Lourenco, 63, a ruling party loyalist and former general, takes over from outgoing president José Eduardo dos Santos, who will continue as head of the party. As the deputy president of the MPLA — and defense minister until last month — Lourenco is now “part of the inner circle of power”. Activist and journalist Rafael Marques, a leading regime critic, said Lourenco was at heart “a hardline MPLA general”.
Mr. Lourenco, like Mr. dos Santos, fought against the then colonial power Portugal. After Angola won its independence in 1975, the two men fought in the civil war between the MPLA and UNITA, led by Jonas Savimbi. This ended in 2002 with over 1.5 million fatalities. A decade-long oil-fueled boom followed.
That boom went bust in 2014, with the drop in oil prices, which brought into focus claims of mismanagement of the country’s resources and rampant corruption among top government officials.
Today, Isabel dos Santos, the president’s daughter, is Africa’s richest woman, running the national oil company Sonangol. Jose Filomeno dos Santos serves as chair of the country’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund and recently acquired 49% of Standard Bank Angola. First Lady Ana Paula dos Santos, the President’s third wife, owns a number of smaller business ventures in Luanda, along with the first couple’s eldest son Danilo.
Transparency International rates the country one of the world’s most corrupt nations.