Angola: Leader Joao Lourenco Tipped to Win Knife-Edge Election

Joao Lourenco looks set to remain president of Angola as his MPLA party maintains its lead in the country’s most hotly contested election in its democratic history.

With more than 97 percent of ballots tallied in Wednesday’s election, the governing MPLA was polling at 51.7 percent against 44 percent for its main rival Unita, electoral officials said.

Lourenço looks set to secure a second five-year term in office.

The preliminary results give MPLA 124 seats in parliament and Unita 90 seats, according to electoral commission spokesperson Lucas Quilunda.

MPLA, which has ruled Angola since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, won 10 percent fewer votes than in the 2017 elections and loses its absolute majority in parliament.

Rui Falcao, the party’s spokesperson, told RFI that having to work with the opposition “didn’t change anything” and wasn’t a constraint.

“We have to take the time to analyse what happened, what we did over the last five years and redirect some of our actions,” he told RFI.

🇦🇴 In #Angola, the electoral commission says that provisional results show a strong lead for the ruling #MPLA party over its rival #UNITA, but the gap between the two parties is small.@CBonnerot reports from #Luanda #AngolaDecides #AngolaElections2022 pic.twitter.com/zsov8Mt2tJ— Eye on Africa – France 24 (@EyeOnAfricaF24) August 26, 2022

Calls for calm

Lourenco, a 68-year-old former general educated in the Soviet Union, is credited with far-reaching reforms including boosting financial transparency.

But critics say his anti-graft crusade is aimed at settling political scores.

There had been concerns an MPLA win could lead to violence.

A senior Unita member told a news conference that the official results did not tally with their own parallel count.

“We hope there can be common sense, we are not encouraging a rebellion, the process is not over, we must remain calm,” said Anastacio Ruben Sicato.

Unita activists, gathering at party headquarters in Luanda, were angry.

“We are convinced the results are not reliable, the MPLA has lost, it’s time for Joao Lourenco to leave the presidential palace,” they told RFI.

Disappointment

Wednesday’s poll had been presented as Angola’s most tightly fought election since independence.

The results are a disappointment for Unita and its leader Adalberto Costa Junior.

Deputy leader Abel Chivukuvuku said earlier that the party’s own tally showed it was ahead.

There is a “clear provisional indication of a winning trend for Unita in all provinces,” he told a live streamed press conference late Wednesday.

On Thursday afternoon Adalberto Costa Junior claimed MPLA and Unita were neck and neck with 47 and 46 percent respectively.

Results in past elections, including 2017, have been contested – a process that can take several weeks.

But a team of observers from the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) declared the election to have been organised in “accordance with international requirements” and Angolan laws.

More than 14 million people were registered to vote in an election that has been overshadowed by a struggling economy, inflation, poverty and drought. Some 60 percent of young people are unemployed.

The death of Lourenco’s predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos, last month in Spain also cast a shadow over the campaign.

He will be buried in Angola on Sunday, which would have been his 80th birthday.

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