MPLA romps to victory, but opposition cries foul
By Andreas Thomas and Santos Vilola
Luanda – On 23 August, millions of voters in oil-rich Angola went to the polls in historic general elections in which they decided to extend the MPLA’s 42-year rule with five more years.
In a definite fashion, 61.1 percent of the electorate voted for the ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
The leading opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) came second with 26, 71 percent, followed by the CASA-CE coalition with 9.46 percent.
Despite the clean sweep for the former liberation movement with 150 seats in the 220 parliament, last week’s elections have exposed the MPLA’s continuous waning of its stranglehold on Angolan politics.
Since the 2012 elections the MPLA has been losing seats. In 2008, the party won the elections with 75 percent of the vote, an absolute majority, but this was reduced to 72 percent in 2012. In the latest elections, the party lost 25 seats to the opposition.
UNITA has increased its seats from 32 in the previous assembly to 51, while the CASA-CE coalition has also doubled its parliamentary seats from 8 to 16 seats. MPLA also lost in the country’s largest provincial constituency, Luanda.
It only managed two of the five seats available, with UNITA and CASA-CE (Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola electoral alliance) now in control of the capital city, which is also the seat of government.
Prior to elections, CASA-CE coalition led by Abel Chivukuvuku and UNITA’s Isaiah Samakuva led a year-long mass mobilisation campaign called 15/15 (15 days in each of 18 province) for a year.
The campaign was targeted at youths who were disfranchised by high levels of unemployment and to steal votes from the ruling party.
About 5.9 million or 63, 74 percent out of 9.3 million registered voters cast their votes in the general elections.
According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) the parliamentary elections took place under the keen eyes of about 1, 440 observers, of which 1 200 were from international institutions.
And they have given the elections a clean bill of health that they were free, fair and conducted in accordance with the electoral laws of the country.
In its assessment, the SADC Election Observation Mission that was led by Augustine Mahiga noted the pre-election and the election phases of the process were evidently fair, free and transparent.
Mahiga, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of Tanzania, has acknowledged the positive electoral reforms ushered in by the Angolan Constitution of 2010 which include term limits on the Presidency, establishment of an independent electoral commission and the implementation of the Electoral Code of Conduct.
He further noted that all contesting political parties had received equal financing from the State to assist with their campaigns.
The head of the Observation Mission of the Forum of Electoral Commissions of the SADC Countries (ECF-SADC) António Chipanga congratulated Angolan voters for exercising their rights in an orderly manner.
“The general elections were a great step taken by Angola, to allow Angolans to choose their rulers,” he said, urging political actors to adopt legal channels to submit their complaints.
Former president of Sao Tome & Principe, Miguel Trovoada, who headed the observation mission for the Community of Portuguese Language Countries highlighted the electoral capacity demonstrated by the CNE in the organisation of the electoral process, as well as the competency of polling officials in the clarification of the voters.
The Economic Community of Central African States headed by Mangral Bante observed that the opening and closing of the voting times complied with the set timeframe, and political parties were represented at most voting stations.
However, the opposition parties are crying foul over the results with UNITA saying it will contest the results released by the National Electoral Commission last week.
UNITA’s representative José Pedro Catchiungo accussed the election commission of releasing “fake” results.
Nonetheless, having won the 2017 elections, the MPLA will now confirm its presidential candidate, João Lourenço, as President and Bornito de Sousa as the Vice President of Angola.
According to the law, the President-elect must take office within 15 days after the official publication of the election results. President José Eduardo dos Santos, who is stepping down after 38 years in power, is expected to vacate the presidential palace in Luanda by September 21.
A heavy burden is awaiting Lourenço, the ex-Defence Minister and former secretary general of the MPLA, who is expected to find a winning formula that will help him revive the Angolan economy that is heavily dependent on oil.
The country is faced with a host of developmental and social challenges, with endemic corruption, and high level of poverty among the ordinary citizens.
Angola, the second largest oil producer after Nigeria, and a member of OPEC (Organiaation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) took a heavy blow after oil prices fell from over $100 per barrel in 2014 to the current level of about $40.
For the past two years, the country has experienced an economic crisis due to the oil price crash. Inflation is hovering around 45 percent and economic growth was practically zero in 2016.
According to the World Bank, Angola’s GDP grew by 2.8 percent in 2015, down from 4.8 percent in 2014, mostly as a result of the drop in oil prices. It said the decline in international crude oil prices has had a substantial impact on budget balances.
The global lender further noted that the average price for Angolan crude was $104 in the third quarter of 2014, declining to $85 in the fourth quarter.
And the prices continued to drop in 2015 with the average oil price at $52, and dropped even further in early 2016, averaging $30 in the first two months of the year.
Oil exports in the last 10 years accounted on average for 97% of Angolan exports, said the World Bank. In 2014 and in 2015, the share of oil in total export remained around the same level.
Oil exports brought in $60.2 billion in revenues to the country in 2014. In 2015, foreign exchange inflows generated by oil exports was at $33.4 billion, a 44.5 percent decline in relation to the same period the previous year.
Meanwhile, Lourenço, a former military general, has his battle plan ready to deliver Angola from obscurity. He promised to diversify the economy, betting especially on reviving agriculture and manufacturing, which in addition help to combat poverty, and create much needed jobs for young people. He also promised to root out pervasive corruption to infiltrate all sectors of Angolan economy.
Corruption was the central message of Lourenço’s campaign during which he proposed a “great national pact” with all Angolan citizens to combat corruption and impunity in the country.
“We will bravely face corruption and impunity, two evils that affect the development of the country and that need to be combated,” he said.
Lourenço has further promised that: “We will work seriously to accelerate the economic and social development of Angola”.
He also reassured the population that the MPLA administration will continue with projects to bring electricity and clean drinking water to their homes as well as industries.
He said the same of health and education, that it should be brought closer to the people by training more teachers, doctors and nurses.
“We will continue the programme of construction of houses and new housing developments for all Angolans,” he added.
He also promised to revive the agricultural sector to its former glory during the 1970s before the civil broke out.
Before the war broke out in 1975, Angola was one of the top coffee exporters. Other crops like cocoa, palm oil and cotton were also produced on a large scale.
Lourenço is stepping in the shoes of President dos Santos, the Azerbaijan-trained petroleum engineer who came to power following the death of the Angolan first president, Agostinho Neto, in September 1979.
The August 23 vote was the third general elections in Angola in more than four decades. And despite being in power for 27 years, dos Santos was only conferred through the ballot in 2008 elections, where he garnered 82 percent of the vote.
He was re-elected for another five-year term in 2012 after a constitutional revision in 2010, which allowed him to compete for one more term. However, health concerns have emerged as his great opponent in recent months, although he will remain president of the MPLA.