José Eduardo dos Santos with South Africa's president Jacob Zuma. Photo: GCIS

After 38 years, Angola will get a new president

Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, the second-longest-serving leader in Africa, will leave office after elections held on 23 August. His successor will take over a country seriously shaken by a collapse in oil prices.

The end of balloting on Wednesday, at 6 p.m. in most parts of the country, marked the end of nearly four decades with dos Santos in power. Preliminary election results are expected during Friday.

He is expected to be replaced by the country’s 63-year-old defence minister, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, who will run for ruling party the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) in presidential and legislative elections on 23 August.

“Lourenço is seen as a candidate of stability and continuity. He is widely respected and well connected”, says NAI researcher Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues, who is herself Angolan.

Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues. Photo: Mattias Sköld

Lourenço also has a clean reputation, a rare feature among Angola’s political elite. The anticorruption watchdog Transparency International ranks Angola 164th out of 176 countries on fighting corruption. Critics accuse dos Santos of mismanaging Angola's oil resources and acquiring wealth for his family and political allies. His daughter Isabel dos Santos last year was appointed as head of state oil company Sonangol, while his son José Filomeno is chairman of Angola's sovereign wealth fund.

Despite the country’s oil wealth, most of Angola's more than 25 million people live in poverty.

The collapse in oil prices since 2013 has triggered a full-scale national economic crisis.

“Political transition and the economy are the two major concerns in the eyes of the electorate. There are signs that things might change, with real attempts to diversify the national sources of income, but no-one expects things to move quickly”, says Udelsmann Rodrigues. 

José Eduardo dos Santos is likely to remain an influential figure. Recently the Angolan parliament approved a law allowing him to become “honorary president” after his term has ended.

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