Angolans will head to the polls to vote in their country’s general election on August 31. This is the second legislative vote since 2008, and the first Presidential election in 20 years.(1) On Election Day, citizens of Angola will vote for the 220 deputies that make up the country’s National Assembly, known in Angola as the Assembleia Nacional. The President of Angola will be elected indirectly, with the leader of the winning political party being elected President.
Angola officially gained independence from Portugal on November 11, 1975. With the death of its first President, Augustino Neto, in 1979, Jose Eduardo dos Santos was selected by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola [MPLA]) to be the country’s next president. President dos Santos ruled Angola under a one-party system while a civil war raged on between the MPLA and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independêcia Total de Angola [UNITA]). A U.S.-brokered agreement resulted in foreign troops withdrawing from Angola in 1989, and in 1991 the Bicesse Accord sought to help develop a democratic electoral system in Angola.(2) Presidential elections were held in 1992, in which dos Santos stood for reelection in Angola’s first multiparty elections. President dos Santos won 49.6% of the vote and his opponent, UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi, garnered 40.1%, necessitating a second round run-off election.(3). However, the run-off was never held; UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi made allegations of fraud, the war continued and President dos Santos maintained his hold on power. Conflict continued sporadically until the Angolan government and UNITA signed the Luena Memorandum of Understanding in 2002, which brought about a cease-fire after the death of Savimbi.(2)
Angola held its first legislative elections after the cease-fire was brokered on September 5, 2008. President dos Santos’ MPLA won 81.6 percent of the vote, giving the party 191 out of 220 seats in the Assembleia Nacional.(2) The result of MPLA’s victory was largely accepted by most members of opposition and the remaining 29 seats were distributed appropriately among the opposition.(4) Although President dos Santos had stated that Presidential elections would take place in 2009 these plans were put on hold as a cross-party commission began the task of drawing up a new constitution.(5)
In February 5, 2010, Angola enacted a new constitution that introduced major changes to the country’s electoral system and strengthened the powers and role of the president. Previously, the President and the Assembleia Nacional were elected separately, allowing for the possibility of one political party having a majority in the legislature and another political party holding the presidency. This system was overturned with the new Constitution favoring the establishment of a party list system in which the candidate at the top of the winning political party’s list would win the presidency(5) The position of prime minister has been eliminated and replaced it with a vice-president who reports directly to the president.
Angola’s Assembleia Nacional is a unicameral body composed of 220 seats. Of the current deputies serving in the body, 130 are elected at large while five are elected to represent each of Angola’s 18 provinces. There have been calls for Angola’s election to allow for three deputies to be elected in order to represent Angolan’s living abroad; however, this has not been enacted.
The Constitutional Court in Angola approved nine political bodies to run in the upcoming Assembleia Nacional elections. This includes five political parties(6) and four coalitions. However, the courts rejected 18 other political bodies who applied to run in the upcoming election.(7) The three parties expected to be the most successful during the election are the MPLA, UNITA, and the newly formed Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola (Convergência Ampla de Salvação de Angola [CASA]). The MPLA will once again be led by President dos Santos, while UNITA is led by Isaías Samakuva. CASA was formed by members of UNITA after its leader, Abel Chivukuvuku, lost the UNITA leadership election to Samakuva.
It appears unlikely that MPLA will repeat the sweeping legislative victory that occurred during the 2008 elections. However, the inability of other political parties to muster a strong opposition to the ruling party has indicated that President dos Santos and the MPLA will most likely remain dominant by winning an absolute majority in these upcoming elections. The ruling party would like to repeat its 2008 landslide victory in order to curb past accusations of electoral fraud, although a new landslide victory may raise similar questions.(5)
- Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has never faced a direct democratic vote other than first round presidential elections in 1992. After Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea he is the longest serving president in Sub-Sahara Africa. [↩]
- “Background Note: Angola.” U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2012. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/6619.htm>. [↩] [↩] [↩]
- CIA. “Central Intelligence Agency.” CIA. N.p., 17 July 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2012. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ao.html> [↩]
- The results of the remaining 29 seats are as followed: UNITA with 16, the Social Renewal Party (PRS) with 8, National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) with 3, and the New Democracy (ND) coalition with 2. [↩]
- Vines, Alex, and Markus Weimer. Angola – Assessing Risks to Stability. Publication. Washington: CSIS, 2011. Print. [↩] [↩] [↩]
- Political parties include: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA); National Union for the Independence of Angola (Unita); National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA); the Party for Social Renovation (PRS); and the New Democracy [↩]
- News24. “Angola Approves 9 Parties for Elections.” News24. 3 July 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2012. <http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Angola-approves-9-parties-for-elections-20120703>. [↩]