Angola’s Ruling Party Retains Power in Tightest Election Yet

LUANDA, Angola — Angola’s ruling party on Monday was declared the winner of the general election, but it was its weakest showing in the five elections that have taken place since the country gained independence.

The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, the liberation army turned political party that has governed Angola since the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, won 51.17 percent of the vote, the country’s electoral commission announced.

The opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, received 43.95 percent of the vote, its most successful showing so far.

The two parties have faced off in four previous elections, and in the 2017 contest, the MPLA had 61 percent of the vote to UNITA’s 26 percent.

UNITA said it planned to challenge the result, but the electoral commission dismissed calls for a recount.

Angola, on the southwestern coast of Africa and the continent’s second-largest oil producer, has dipped in and out of recession over the past five years. The incumbent president, João Lourenço, campaigned on a promise to wipe out corruption and fix the economy, but it was a message that was similar to his campaign promises in 2017.

In a speech Mr. Lourenço, 68, described his party’s victory as “a guarantee of stability.” He dismissed allegations of fraud, citing the presence of international election observers.

Mr. Lourenço’s running mate, Esperança Francisco da Costa — the current cabinet minister in charge of fisheries and oceans — will become Angola’s first female vice president.

Voting in Luanda last week. More than half of Angola’s registered voters stayed away from the polls. Credit…John Wessels/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With half of Angola’s registered voters under the age of 35, the result suggests that the MPLA’s influence is waning among younger voters who were not alive during the battle for independence.

As with other liberation movements in southern Africa, election results show that young voters are losing faith in the parties that brought an end to colonialism or white-minority rule. Instead, issues like the economy and high youth unemployment are top of mind for many voters.

More than 30 percent of Angolans are unemployed, and the country’s vast oil wealth has not trickled down to the majority of people, according to Angola’s national statistics agency. Significantly, UNITA unseated the MPLA in the capital, Luanda — the MPLA’s traditional stronghold.

If the results of last week’s elections are upheld, this would be the first time that the MPLA will not hold a two-thirds majority in the national assembly. The ruling party maintains the majority with 124 seats, while UNITA will now have 90 seats and three smaller parties two seats each, which could result in more oversight of the MPLA, analysts said.

The new configuration in Parliament means the MPLA can no longer amend the Constitution, said Augusto Santana, a political analyst in Angola. Appointing seats on the constitutional court, the electoral commission and even the news media regulator “will need proper negotiations,” he added.

“UNITA is now in better position to monitor government activities,” he said.

More than half of Angola’s registered voters stayed away from the polls. And many of those who did vote participated in an unusual civic movement, called “vote and stay,” in which they remained at their voting stations after casting their ballots to make sure their votes were counted.

UNITA, which says the electoral commission is packed with pro-MPLA commissioners, conducted an independent count through a network of observers but has not yet released any results.

Angola’s vast oil wealth has not trickled down to the majority of people.Credit…John Wessels/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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