In Angola Ruling party silent over presidential successor

Angola does not directly elect its president, with the leader of the party that does best in the polls automatically becoming head of state.

  • Published:
Angolan state radio said December 2,2016 that President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, seen in 2011, would not seek re-election play

Angolan state radio said December 2,2016 that President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, seen in 2011, would not seek re-election

(AFP/File)
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Angola's ruling party on Saturday launched its campaign for next year's general elections -- but without long-time President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos whose successor is still awaiting his public blessing.

Angola does not directly elect its president, with the leader of the party that does best in the polls automatically becoming head of state.

The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been in power since 1975, with Dos Santos at the helm since 1979 -- but state radio said on December 2 that he would not seek re-election.

The MPLA held a ceremony in Luanda at the November 11 Stadium -- named after Angolan Independence Day -- on Saturday, the 60th anniversary of the party's founding, with thousands of supporters flocking to join celebrations.

The MPLA, which has Marxist roots and is famously opaque, has not publicly commented on Dos Santos' decision to stand down at the elections next August.

Saturday's event was led by Defence Minister Joao Lourenco, the current number two, who is expected to take over after next year's poll.

Joana Lina, parliament's vice president and a member of the MPLA's central committee, alluded to the looming change at the top of the party.

"In the party we know the name of the successor of President Dos Santos, and the candidate of the party in the elections," she said, without giving a name.

'The right man'

"The official announcement will be made in a few days."

According to an agenda for Saturday's event, 74-year-old Dos Santos had been due to lead the launch of the election campaign. No reason was given for his absence.

After years of spectacular growth thanks to an oil boom, Angola has suffered a downturn in the last two years due to a prolonged dip in the price of crude.

While it will be a new page in Angola's history, the departure of the former Marxist guerilla fighter is unlikely to shake-up how the country is run and critics who have long denounced Dos Santos' "dictatorship" are likely to be disappointed.

Dos Santos' expected successor Lourenco is an ex-artillery general who was trained in the former Soviet Union. He is seen as a true son of his party, as is interior minister Bornito de Sousa, who is expected to become his deputy.

Soren Kirk Jensen, an Angola specialist at Chatham House in London, said Lourenco "looks like the right man at this time".

"He has a reasonable reputation as a moderate, not an extreme character."

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