On August 24, millions of voters in Angola will go to the polls to elect a new president and members of parliament simultaneously. The incumbent President Joao Lourenço is seeking to extend his presidency with a second five-year term on the platform of the ruling MPLA. The opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) is hoping its candidate, legislator Adalberto Costa Junior, can unseat him. Lourenço’s election victory was historically important, as it was the first time Angolans have had a different president since 1979.
His anti-corruption fight has been seen as selective and as a witch-hunt against his predecessor and his cronies. His efforts to revitalise the nation’s closed economy have won international praise. Foreign investors and business circles praise Lourenço as a reformer, but many Angolans say these policies have not improved the standard of living in one of the world’s most unequal societies. Sixty-five percent of the population is urban, and people below 30 years make up two-thirds of the population. Young people have been vocal in recent months, demanding better living standards.
Can the opposition end MPLA dominance? The opposition is trying to capitalize on the anger of frustrated citizens and pressure on the governing party to seize power. UNITA is seven points behind the MPLA, with almost half of the voters undecided. Control Risks’ Lourenço believes the party lacks a communication strategy and the governing party’s control over state institutions could help it extend power. If Lourenço wins, his second term would bring more foreign investment and explore opportunities to meet Europe’s gas needs, but a potential victory could spark social unrest.