Angolans are heading to the polls on Wednesday in an election that will mark an end to the 38-year rule of Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.
The 74-year-old, who has ruled the former Portuguese colony since 1979, announced in March 2016 that he would not run in the August 2017 poll. It is suspected that Mr. Dos Santos’ ill health prompted him to step down.
His ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), however, is expected to remain in power.
Defence Minister Joao Lourenco, 63, is running on the MPLA ticket and is considered an MPLA loyalist who enjoys the respect of the Angolan military, Alex Vines from the Chatham House told AFP. According to him, Mr. Lourenco does not lead a flamboyant lifestyle, which could work to his favor among an electorate dissatisfied with corrupt, wealthy politicians.
Mr. Lourenco has campaigned on promises to revitalize Angola’s struggling economy.
The oil-rich country has suffered economically since the fall in oil prices in 2014. AFP reports that by the end of 2016, inflation skyrocketed to 40 percent while the economy grew by less than one percent.
Despite the economic downturn, the MPLA is expected to extend its rule. The party, which has been in power since Angola gained independence in 1975, has brutally cracked down on all opposition parties and dissidents in order to ensure its rule remains unchallenged.
Amnesty International has criticized the MPLA-led government for its “appalling human rights.”
“Dos Santos’s presidency is marked by his appalling human rights record. For decades, Angolans have lived in a climate of fear in which speaking out was met with intimidation (and) imprisonment,” the human rights organization said.
Despite such oppression, the largest opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), is slated to win 32 percent of the vote, Maka Angola reported earlier in August. Another opposition party, the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola (CASA-CE), could win 26 percent of the vote.
The poll cited by Maka Angola projects that the MPLA will win the election with 38 percent of the vote, a steep drop from 2012 when the party won 72 percent of the vote.
Some 9.3 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots. The polls will close at 6:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday and the results will be announced by Friday.