Angolans head to the polls in tightest ever race

Angolans head to the polls in tightest ever race

Angola's ruling MPLA party is facing the most serious challenge since the country's first multiparty vote in 1992
Angola's ruling MPLA party is facing the most serious challenge since the country's first multiparty vote in 1992. Photo: JOHN WESSELS / AFP
Source: AFP

Angolans head to the polls on Wednesday in what is expected to be the most competitive vote in its democratic history, with incumbent president Joao Lourenco squaring up against charismatic opposition leader Adalberto Costa Junior.

A struggling economy, the high cost of living, soaring poverty compounded by the Covid pandemic, drought in southern parts of the country and the death of a former strongman president all loom large.

The ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party, which has held power for more than 40 years, is facing the most serious challenge since the country's first multiparty vote in 1992.

Eight political parties are running, but the real contest lies between the MPLA and its long-standing rival and ex-rebel movement the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

Read also

Ready or not? Italy's Meloni launches vote campaign

Opinion polls suggest that support for the MPLA -- which won 61 percent of the vote in 2017 elections -- will dwindle, while the UNITA, which has entered an electoral pact with two other parties, will make gains.

But UNITA's inroads might not be enough to unseat Lourenco, who is expected to secure a second mandate.

PAY ATTENTION: Subscribe to Digital Talk newsletter to receive must-know business stories and succeed BIG!

Still, it is unlikely to be a smooth swing back into office for the 68-year-old, who succeeded veteran leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos five years ago.

"The margins will be closer than ever before... but the advantages of incumbency mean MPLA is still odds on to pip Costa (Junior)," said Eric Humphery-Smith, an analyst at London-based Verisk Maplecroft.

'An alternative'

The MPLA has maintained its grip on the electoral process and public media in Angola, but the opposition tells its supporters not to be intimidated.

Read also

Angolans hope for change on eve of tight vote race

Profiles of major party leaders in the legislative elections in Angola
Profiles of major party leaders in the legislative elections in Angola. Photo: Vincent LEFAI / AFP
Source: AFP

"Don't be afraid of an alternative," Costa Junior told supporters at his final rally in the capital Luanda on Monday. "There is no democracy with a single party in power."

The 60-year-old Costa Junior who is popular among the youth -- a significant and growing voting bloc -- pledges to "eradicate poverty" and create jobs.

His rival, a Soviet-educated former general who had promised to usher in a new era for Angola when he was first elected, has trumpeted a list of achievements to woo voters.

"We made and restructured our economy," he told one of his final rallies in the capital at the weekend.

But little has changed for most of Angola's 33 million people for whom life is a daily grind in Africa's second largest crude oil producer.

"We've been voting for years and it doesn't work," said a 37-year-old street hawker Gabriel.

"Everything is very expensive, prices are going up and we are earning crumbs."

Read also

Term-limit row leaves Thai PM facing calls to quit

The petro-dollars benefited the former president, the late dos Santos who died in Spain last month, his family and cronies.

The night-time and low-key repatriation of dos Santos's remains to Angola in the final leg of campaigning has added a macabre element to the election.

Angola's ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party has held power for more than 40 years
Angola's ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party has held power for more than 40 years. Photo: Julio PACHECO NTELA / AFP/File
Source: AFP

Analysts warn that ruling party attempts to capitalise on dos Santos's funeral could backfire as opinions on his legacy are not "unanimous", especially among young people.

Some 14.7 million people are registered to vote at 13,200 polling stations across the vast southern African nation.

Angolans living overseas are for the first time able to cast ballots from abroad.

Polling stations open at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) and close 11 hours later.

Results are expected within a few days. In past elections, results have been contested in a process than can take several weeks.

Source: AFP

Authors:
AFP avatar

AFP AFP text, photo, graphic, audio or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. AFP news material may not be stored in whole or in part in a computer or otherwise except for personal and non-commercial use. AFP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions in any AFP news material or in transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages whatsoever. As a newswire service, AFP does not obtain releases from subjects, individuals, groups or entities contained in its photographs, videos, graphics or quoted in its texts. Further, no clearance is obtained from the owners of any trademarks or copyrighted materials whose marks and materials are included in AFP material. Therefore you will be solely responsible for obtaining any and all necessary releases from whatever individuals and/or entities necessary for any uses of AFP material.

Online view pixel