Angolan presidential candidates on Monday wrapped up a month-long campaign ahead of this week’s election which is likely to be a tense standoff between a ruling party in power for decades and an opposition with growing appeal among youth.
The MPLA, led by João Lourenço since 2017, has governed Africa’s second-biggest oil producer since independence from Portugal in 1975. But long-time opposition party UNITA is stronger than ever, as anger grows at government failures to convert vast oil wealth into better living conditions for all.
Angola have a presidential-parliamentary system of government whereby the President of the Republic is elected according to the model of a parliamentary system, but with the powers of a presidential system. They elect members of parliament in a single list, and if the head of the list of the winning party is elected, he automatically becomes president of the republic.
Angola has the national constituency, which elects 130 members, and the 18 provincial constituencies each elect five members. The legislator establishes two methods, the system of proportional representation and the Hondt method. In the system of proportional representation, seats are distributed to the national constituency. The Hondt method is used for provincial constituencies.
More than 14 million Angolans are eligible to vote and will elect the president and 220 members of parliament simultaneously, with a single mark on the ballot paper.
An Afrobarometer survey in May showed the number of Angolans favouring UNITA, led by the charismatic Adalberto Costa Júnior, had increased to 22% from 13% in 2019, still seven points behind the MPLA. Nearly half of voters were undecided.
MPLA is currently led by incumbent President João Lourenço and derives much of its support from its role in ending Angola’s 1975-2002 civil war against UNITA. The two anti-colonial guerrilla movements were locked in a struggle following Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975.
But high unemployment, corruption, and the repression of civil liberties has hit MPLA’s popularity, particularly among Angola’s disillusioned youth, for whom the memory of the civil war may not be as fresh.
That desire for change has given Costa Júnior, who has pledged to tackle corruption and poverty, an opening among younger voters in particular. His UNITA party is leading the United Patriotic Front (FPU) opposition alliance and polls predict a tight vote.
The MPLA held its last rally on Saturday, but Lourenço took part in an event on Monday focused on women’s rights issues and said voting was “fundamental for the future” of the country, one of Africa’s most unequal nations.
Wearing red and green, UNITA’s colours, thousands of people, mostly young, gathered in the suburbs of the capital Luanda on Monday for the party’s final rally. UNITA is being backed by several groups, including the fourth-largest party, Bloco Democratico.
“There is no democracy without a change in political power,” Costa Júnior told the packed rally. “The continuity of a single party in power corresponds to the postponement of Angola’s development.”
Still, many Angolans continue to back MPLA, and the repatriation of José Eduardo dos Santos’s remains on Saturday, who died last month in Spain, could give the party a chance to talk up its liberation credentials.
Voter fraud fears have led UNITA to urge voters to remain near polling stations after they cast their ballot to monitor the election process. The electoral commission, which is mostly controlled by the MPLA, said the election will be fair and transparent.
More than 80,000 officers have been mobilised for the election, and the police commander said voters were not allowed to remain near polling stations. If an MPLA win is perceived as fraudulent, unrest could follow.