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President Joao Lourenco of Angola
Joao Lourenco has been Angola's president since September 2017Image: AP Photo/picture alliance
PoliticsAfrica

Angola's general election: What you need to know

Antonio Cascais
August 17, 2022

Angolan political parties are facing their tightest race ever in a general election. DW explains who's running, the burning issues — and why the contest is so intense.

https://p.dw.com/p/4FeY4

Incumbent Joao Lourenco is under increasing pressure in the run-up to the country's election: His rival in the presidential race, Adalberto Costa Junior, is ahead in most opinion polls.

In the major cities, where most Angolans live, and among the younger generation, dissatisfaction with Lourenco and his government and the desire for political change is pronounced.  

The general election is expected to be the tightest contest since democratic elections were first introduced in 1992.

The parties and the candidates

Eight political formations — seven parties and one coalition — are vying for the 220 seats in the National Assembly.

The ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) is headed by presidential incumbent Joao Lourenco and the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) is headed by presidential candidate Adalberto Costa Junior.

Headshot of a man holding a microphone
Adalberto Costa Junior heads the National Union for the Total Indepedence of Angola (UNITA) partyImage: Osvaldo Silva/AFP

There is also the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), the Nationalist Party for Justice in Angola (P-NJANGO), the Humanist Party of Angola (PHA), the Social Renewal Party (PRS), the National Patriotic Alliance (APN), and the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola Electoral Coalition (Casa-CE).

The top candidate of the party that wins the most votes is elected president, in accordance with the Angolan constitution. Joao Lourenco and Adelberto Costa Junior are the frontrunners in 2022.

Woman in a green hat and jacket in interview. A cellphone is held at the ready to record her answers
Florbela 'Bela' Malaquias of the Humanist Party of Angola (PHA) is the first woman to run for president in AngolaImage: B. Ndomba/DW

The voters

According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE), more than 14 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in the general election.

This year marks the fourth election in Angola's post-war period and the fifth electoral process since 1992. It is also the first in which Angolans living abroad will be able to vote.

In recent weeks, civil society groups have repeatedly complained about flaws in the electoral process. One of their claims is that millions of deceased citizens are still included in the electoral lists.

Moreover, many voters have been assigned polling stations at a distance from their places of residence. This is especially true of Angolans in the diaspora.

People holding a protest banner on a street
An anti-government demonstration in Angola's northwestern Bengo Province in 2021Image: António Ambrósio/DW

National and international observers

Hundreds of observers are set to be involved in the election. The CNE recently announced that the limit of 2,000 national and international observers has been reached. The CNE has invited observers from organizations and blocs such as the European Union, the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), the Southern African Development Community, the US Carter Center, Economic Community of West African States and the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region.

An election poster attached to a lamp post with flags attached to a diagonal arm. A second flag pole is visible to the right.
A poster of the ruling MPLA in Angola's capital Luanda Image: Borralho Ndomba/DW

Members of Parliament

The National Assembly consists of 220 deputies. A total of 130 representatives are elected from the national lists of the parties, according to the number of votes obtained by each political formation in the elections. The remaining 90 parliamentarians are elected based on provincial lists, with each of the 18 provinces electing five deputies.

Currently, Angola's ruling MPLA, in power since Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975, holds an absolute majority, occupying 150 seats in the National Assembly, followed by the opposition UNITA, with 51 deputies, and the Casa-CE, with 16. The PRS has two deputies and FNLA has one.

The president of Angola heads the government and the country's armed forces. The constitution also stipulates that the president "promotes and guarantees the regular functioning of state bodies, appoints judges, prosecutors, ministers and ambassadors, and "represents the nation internally and internationally."

The president is not directly elected. The first on the list of the most popular party is automatically appointed president.

Campaign issues

Issues such as unemployment, education and vocational training are major concerns in the Angolan election campaign, as is poverty in general and the best ways of combatting it. 

There is also a significant focus on corruption. The ruling MPLA has been accused of using state resources for its 2022 reelection campaign. President Lourenco made the fight against corruption a key issue in his first election campaign in 2017. He promised new compliance rules for state-owned enterprises, especially the oil industry.

Powerful former generals and the children of Lourenco's predecessor have since been subject to investigation. 

Headshot of a woman smiling outdoors against a blurred background
Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of Angola's former presidentImage: Loic Venance/AFP

Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was forced to give up her board position with the state oil company Sonangol. She is being investigated for embezzlement and corruption. Her brother, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, who used to manage the state oil fund, received a prison sentence for mismanagement and corruption. Another daughter of the former president, Welwitschia dos Santos, lost her parliamentary seat and has since left the country.

A picture of Eduardo dos Santos at a public wake following his death in July 2022
Jose Eduardo dos Santos was Angola's president for 38 years before he was succeeded by Joao LourencoImage: Borralho Ndomba/DW

The international dimension

During the current election campaign, the main rivals have accused each other of "making pacts with corrupt people." The ruling MPLA has insinuated that UNITA's election campaign is being financed by the children of the recently deceased ex-president dos Santos. MPLA has yet to provide any evidence to support this claim.

The opposition party has described Lourenco's anti-corruption measures as "cosmetic" and aimed only at publicity. These have no impact on his own allegedly corrupt cronies, they argue.

Angola is rich in oil, gas, diamonds and other resources. It is also a key partner in the global effort to stabilize the Great Lakes Region. The country has tried for years to mediate in the conflict between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Angola is also a key economic partner of the US and the EU.

Edited by: Benita van Eyssen

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