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Angola’s Upcoming Election Leads to a New President – Political and Security Summary

17 Aug 2017

On 23 August 2017, Angolans will participate in a legislative election which will lead to a new president being appointed. Long-time ruling President Jose Eduardo dos Santos announced he would not stand for the national presidency in December 2016, although he will remain the president of the majority party MPLA. Opposition parties and international election monitoring bodies have criticised the fairness of these elections.

Key Points

  • On 23 August 2017, Angolans will participate in a legislative election which will lead to a new president being appointed.
  • Long-time ruling President Jose Eduardo dos Santos announced he would not stand for the national presidency in December 2016, although he will remain the president of the majority party MPLA.
  • Opposition parties and international election monitoring bodies have criticised the fairness of these elections.

Solace Global Comment

Political: On 23 August 2017, Angolans will vote in a legislative election which will result in a new president. Current President dos Santos has been in power for 38 years; four years after Angola gained independence in 1975. A candidate was chosen by the majority party MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) at their December 2016 conference. The new presidential candidate, and likely winner, is the current defense minister Joao Lourenço. Lourenço has already campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and has promised to spread the wealth in Angola.

Who is Lourenço?

The choice of successor came as a surprise to many, as it was presumed that one of President dos Santos’s children would assume the position. Lourenço is currently 62 years old, and has long been a member of the MPLA, joining them at a young age and participating in the fight for Angolan independence from Portugal. He has long served in government and military roles and was educated with many other MPLA comrades in the Soviet Union. As a result, he speaks a number of languages including English, Russian, and Portuguese. His wife has also held a number of important positions, including the Angolan Minister of Planning and the World Bank’s Executive Director for Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa. Lourenço has already undertaken recent visits to the United States, and signed a defense deal covering future sales of military equipment, as well as ensuring security cooperation and hopefully a regional partnership aimed at addressing security concerns. His campaign promise of improving transparency throughout Angola may be seen as an attempt to distance himself from the accusations held against President dos Santos.

Whats Behind Dos Santos Step Down?

Dos Santos is Africa’s second longest ruling president, after Equatorial Guinea’s leader Teodoro Nguema. Under dos Santos’s presidency, Angola has witnessed some positive developments, such as the end of a protracted and brutal civil war in 2002, and a resultant increase in oil investment, potentially making Angola Africa’s number two crude producer. However, he was widely criticized for suppressing the opposition and controlling freedom of speech, as well as nepotism by allocating strategic positions to family members, or government contracts to family member’s businesses. The inequality gap has been exacerbated in Angola as the country has sought to rebuild itself and encourage more investment. Low oil prices have halted the rapid development seen after the civil war had ended, impacting infrastructure, health services, and more. Regardless, dos Santos’s decision to resign was met with some skepticism and will continue to be monitored as he will remain president of the MPLA for the time being. As the election date has approached, dos Santos’s health status has also been questioned. It remains unconfirmed whether he has cancer or not, although some reports strongly indicate he does; he continues to conduct regular visits to Barcelona, Spain for medical check-ups, which have increased in frequency recently.

Is There Any Opposition in Angola? And is the Election Fair?

Altogether there are six parties competing in these elections, the most well-known of the opposition being UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). UNITA is the second largest party in Angola and has fought against and alongside the MPLA at various intervals during Angola’s civil war. The candidate who wins the presidency will have received the most votes representing their party. On 16 August 2017, UNITA publicly stated they would be willing to form a coalition government after the election, if the MPLA lose a significant numbers of seats. With the largest opposition party receiving 18 per cent of the vote in 2012, this seems an unlikely possibility. Any coalition would likely be formed with CASA-CE (Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola – Electoral Coalition); however, this party only won six per cent of the vote in 2012. Although the electoral commission claims the vote will be fair, there have been disputes with the European Union over the deployment of  election monitors. Angola would not grant them access to all parts of the country where voting may occur. It has been reportedly decided as a compromise that only four EU experts will supervise this year’s election.

It is difficult to determine the extent of unrest throughout Angola, due to the limited reporting which is allowed in country. Unemployment currently sits at 20 per cent. The Ministry of Interior has urged provincial governments to ban demonstrations by groups who are not competing in the election. According to reports, the ministry had been informed that some organisations had arranged to conduct street demonstrations during the campaigning period, some of which may have been held close to government sites. All rallies and demonstrations must be authorised by the provincial government. In the meantime, political parties continue to campaign. It is clear the MPLA has access to greater financial resources, after Lourenço visited the town of Sumbe, centrally located on Angola’s coastline, and gave goods to traditional authorities, former combatants, and local youths. Types of gifts included stoves, televisions, crutches, wheelchairs, and laptops. Many of the opposition parties are unable to afford such methods to gain support, and in many countries, it would be seen as unfair and unethical. Some opposition parties currently find it difficult to finance posters and media placements. It is unlikely that opposition parties will make significant gains in this election and oust the MPLA. However, they may be able to use this election as a timely opportunity to increase their support base.



Demonstrations and protests are held infrequently in Luanda. According to article 47 of the Angolan Constitution, prior consent is required from the provincial government to hold a demonstration. Most demonstrations are therefore pro-government and peaceful. Protests held by government critics are likely to escalate into violence as police and protesters clash. Security forces routinely arrest and use repressive measures against government opponents, even if demonstrations are peaceful. The freedom of assembly is routinely suppressed by the state, as has been encouraged recently by the Ministry of Interior. During this election period, there is potential that demonstrations and protests will be forcefully supressed by security forces.

The primary threat to travellers to Angola is crime. High levels of crime in Angola’s capital Luanda have persisted since 2002 and there is little indication of it declining. Of particular concern is the increase in kidnap for ransom incidents in 2016. A number of wealthy locals and Chinese nationals were targeted for significant ransom amounts. In the same year, a Portuguese national was killed when he resisted being abducted by the kidnappers. Criminals are well-armed and are likely to target foreigners for their perceived wealth. Resisting robbery can rapidly escalate incidents of petty crime or robbery into violent incidents or murder. Walking around Luanda at night, even in groups, is considered dangerous and is advised against. Walking during the day is possible but is still advised with some caution. Walking along the Rua Nehru, the Serpentine road, is particularly advised against at all times of the day.

Although there have been some important improvements in Angola, a thorough risk assessment should be conducted according to the travel itinerary. Security threats can be mitigated through the use of enhanced security measures for the duration of the visit. Airport meet and greet services as well as executive close protection are strongly recommended. A security-trained driver and low-profile vehicle should be used, along with armed escorts as an added precaution, especially outside of main cities. Scheduled check-ins via travel tracking technology will serve as an added measure to ensure travellers are safe and secure, or assist in identifying their location in the event of an emergency.