Angola votes to choose a president, the ballot promises to be tight
Angolans began going to the polls on Wednesday for legislative elections that will decide the next president, a ballot announced as the tightest in the country’s history, between the party in power since independence and an opposition that promises to eradicate poverty and corruption.
Former all-powerful single party, at the head of the country since 1975, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) is losing momentum but is still the favorite for this election, according to forecasts. Outgoing President Joao Lourenço, 68, is seeking a second term.
But the MPLA’s dominance is set to be eaten away by an opposition reinvigorated in recent years by a leader, Adalberto Costa Junior, 60, at the helm of Unita. Galloping inflation, severe drought and high cost of living are fueling a fed up.
Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (5 p.m. GMT) for the 14 million registered voters. Eight political parties are in the running. The candidate of the winning party in the legislative elections will be invested as Head of State. The results are expected a few days after the poll is held, but the deadline may be extended in the event of a dispute.
In the capital, Luanda, Lindo, a 27-year-old electrician, does not hesitate to say that he will vote for Unita: “Twenty years that the country has been at peace and we are still poor. Angola is not a real democracy, the MPLA controls everything”.
Nicknamed “ACJ”, Mr. Costa Junior led his campaign on promises of reform, the fight against poverty and corruption.
Reputed to be a good speaker, he embodies for some this hope for “change” demanded by the street, in a country rich in oil and diamonds, but plunged into great economic difficulties.
The opponent also appeals to urban youth, less attached to the MPLA and who inherit a country undermined by decades of corruption under the presidency of José Eduardo dos Santos (1979-2017).
Died last month in Spain, the former head of state is accused of having embezzled billions for the benefit of his family and loved ones.
Those aged 10 to 24 represent a third of the population, according to United Nations data.
“There is no democracy with a single party in power,” castigated Mr. Costa Junior on Monday, during a last meeting in Luanda, urging the country “not to fear alternation”.
– Fraud risks –
“The margin will be smaller than ever,” said Eric Humphery-Smith, analyst at British firm Verisk Maplecroft.
But with a ruling party that controls the electoral process and the public media, the opposition and part of public opinion are wondering about the possibility of fraud. Social networks have recently relayed cases of deceased voters yet registered on the electoral lists.
In 2017, Joao Lourenço, a former general, was elected with 61% of the vote, with the label of designated dolphin of dos Santos.
Pure product of the party nourished with Marxism-Leninism, he nevertheless turned his back on the system by launching, to everyone’s surprise, a vast anti-corruption campaign, dismissing from key positions those close to his former mentor.
The current president intends to win thanks to his record of the past five years: in an oil-dependent economy in severe recession, he launched ambitious reforms, hailed abroad, to diversify sources of income and privatize companies public.
“We created and restructured our economy,” he said at a rally last weekend.
The repatriation a few days before the ballot of the body of José Eduardo dos Santos, who is to be buried on Sunday, could also favor the outgoing president, although opinions on the legacy left by the former head of state, who reigned without sharing for 38 years, are not unanimous.
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