Angolan Elections: Angola will change the question is how much?

Angolans are voting today, 23rd August in national elections. Whoever wins one thing is certain Angola will have a new president for the first time in 38 years. José Eduardo dos Santos is stepping down as President of the country but remaining the leader of his party, the MPLA.

The person most expected to be the next president is the current Minister of Defence João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço who is the MPLA’s candidate for President.

While the focus is on the president – who is elected by the national assembly not directly – there will also be a focus on the turnout and the strengths of the various competing parties. Will the MPLA retain its commanding majority? (The MPLA received 72% at the last election), or could their majority drop to below 66%? If it does it will be unable to change the constitution.

There have been concerns about the fairness of the electoral process and whether it has been significantly skewed in favour of the MPLA who have all the advantages of being the ruling party since independence in 1975. The EU is not sending an election observer team as they say they were not guaranteed access to all polling stations, in all parts of the country. However despite this they have sent some experts.

Whatever the outcome of the election, with a new head of state, oil at around half its 2013 price and not expected to get anywhere near the 2013 level in the foreseeable future Angola will undeniably see some change. The question is how much and of what nature. Will it be very much a change of some key people, perhaps a change of style but no real substantial change? Or could the change be more far reaching than many currently anticipate?

Angola suffered from a long and bloody war that left the country devastated. Much has been done to improve Angola’s infrastructure but the wealth and potential of Angola has so far not been used to significantly reduce poverty and inequality, nor improve health and education. All of which are key areas that many Angolans, whoever they vote for, are keen to see addressed. Thus there will certainly be change, but it remains to be seen if this change will lead to substantial and lasting improvement in the lives of the average Angolan.

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Robyn K