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KING OF THE HILL

As the results of last week's elections emerge in Angola, tensions, rather than clarity, are on the rise.

Supporters listen as Joao Lourenco, presidential candidate for the ruling MPLA party, speaks at an election rally in Malanje, Angola, August 17, 2017


It is two weeks to the day that Angola held presidential elections, and the official results are finally coming out.
Unsurprisingly, the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in power since independence, won the majority in parliament with 61% of the votes, which amounts to 150 MPs, guaranteeing it will be free to continue dictating legislation as it sees fit for another four years.

Also unsurprisingly, the whole opposition bloc united to denounce the elections as fraudulent and to condemn the National Election Commission (CNE) as biased in favor of the ruling party.

However, at 26.7% of the votes and 51 MPs, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the biggest opposition party, achieved its best result in its history, winning 8% more votes and 19 more MPs than in 2012. The Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola – Electoral Coalition (CASA-CE) also managed to gain a comparatively positive result, rising from 6-9.4% of the vote share and doubling their share of MPs from eight to 16.

While the two smaller parties, the Social Renovation Party (PRS) and the Angola's National Liberation Front Party (FNLA) only managed to elect two and one MPs respectively, both losing one MP since the 2012 elections, the opposition to the MPLA performed better than ever before.

The MPLA lost 26 MPs to the opposition and about 10% of the votes in total. In 2012, the last election in which President José Eduardo dos Santos ran, the MPLA had already lost 16 MPs since the 2008 elections.

Election doubts

Soon after the elections, the CNE released provisional results naming the MPLA as the winner. Isaías Samakuva, leader of UNITA, Abel Chivukuvuku, heading CASA-CE, Benedito Daniel from the PRS, and Lucas Ngonda from the FNLA, were united in denouncing the release as illegal.

In Angolan law, results are gathered and verified at a regional level before being sent to the central counting office. At the time the first results were presented, they claimed, only three out of the 18 provinces of Angola, Cabinda, Uíge, and Zaire, had gathered the results according to the law.

According to opposition leaders, the electoral process was further hurt by the disappearance of ballots and ballot boxes, in addition to other irregularities.

The CNE denounced the complaints as unjustified. According to the commission, the complaints should have been presented to the local electoral assemblies within a much shorter timeframe so that adequate proof could be registered of any wrongdoing.

It is unlikely that any further developments will come out of these protests. Opposition leaders have stated they will file for an appeal of the elections. In light of the legal annulment of the August 8 elections in Kenya, due to suspicion of fraud based on accusations by the opposition, it could be conceivable that Angola would also annul the results.

However, taking into account the general loyalty of the justice system to the MPLA, which nominated most if not all of its main judges, that outcome is not likely.

Perhaps most strange was the immediate declaration of victory by MPLA main candidate João Lourenço, poised to be the country's next president. Over Twitter, the future leader announced a “guaranteed qualified majority," which would imply a minimum of 66% of the votes, a statement that contrasted with the CNE's provisional and official results.

The opposition strongly demanded to know where the MPLA sourced its results. As an anti-fraud mechanism, opposition parties ran parallel vote counting to the official counting, with UNITA stating that its own counting denoted a very small difference between the number of votes they received and those cast for the MPLA. It is difficult to assess where the truth lies; probably somewhere in the middle.

Either way, the MPLA has won, and João Lourenço will be appointed president of the Republic of Angola on September 21, the day that José Eduardo dos Santos celebrates 38 years as the President of Angola.
With the son and daughter of President dos Santos heading up the National Sovereign Fund and the National Oil Company Sonangol respectively, João Lourenço will struggle to impose his control as de facto leader and not just a front for the dos Santos family.

President dos Santos will remain head of the party at least until next year, despite his health issues. With the depressed prices of oil showing little sign of recovery, the economic situation is unlikely to improve in the short term. Any attempts at diversifying the economy from oil dependency will depend on Sonangol's investment capacity and financial restructuring, which is currently in the hands of Isabel dos Santos.
But it is important to remember that José Eduardo dos Santos has been the only president of the country since the end of the civil war in 2002.

With around 85% of the population below the age of 40, having a new man at the helm is something that the vast majority of citizens have never known.


 

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