With dos Santos not running, concern mounts over how things would shape out
By John Eche
Angolans go to the poll in August in elections that would be slightly different from the last three because the grandmaster of political affairs in the oil-rich nation, incumbent President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has already indicated that he would not be on the ballot as had been widely expected.
The long-standing President who succeeded popular independence hero, Agostinho Neto, upon the latter’s strange and mysterious death had publicly announced that he would be stepping down in 2017.
Indeed the announcement which was made in December 2016, came as a surprise to many political watchers who had since gotten accustomed to the inevitability of Dos Santos continuing to run for office, and also win with very large, though incredible margins, as long as his health and the state of affairs in the country could take it. But given the relative finality of the decision, the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA party has presently gone on to elect João Lourenco, a former defense minister, as vice president ahead of the next parliamentary elections. In Angola, the leader of the winning party automatically becomes president and with no formidable opposition in sight yet, the only real opposition to Lourenco’s crowning as substantive president clearly remains dos Santos himself..
And Lourenco’s emergence is another matter, given long-standing tongue-wagging that on the day Dos Santos would finally be bowing out, it will be to be replaced by his favourite daughter, Isabe, who has already hit the charts as Africa’s richest women with an estimated net worth of $3.2billion.
Given that Angola is still dominantly a one-party state, ruled by dos Santos and his family, who have amassed wealth and power over the last four decades, it remains to be seen how the process leading to the elections would be managed. And after that, the next stage of the political chess-speak will be managing the relations between the new government and the powerful outgoing First Family.
Interestingly also, this would be the fourth round of elections in the country since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and it is coming at a time when the country has been hit by the slump in global crude prices—diminishing its foreign exchange revenues. The 2017 elections will therefore test the maturity of Angola’s democracy and if successful, confer some interim measure of legitimacy on its government. Even as the political juggling continues.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola