Angola. There was a historic political shift during the year when José Eduardo dos Santos resigned after 38 years as president. He was succeeded by former Defense Minister João Lourenço, who was the MPLA’s new candidate for the ruling party.
According to Countryaah.com, MPLA won the parliamentary elections in August, and according to the constitution, the presidential post goes to the largest party. The MPLA’s share of the vote, 61%, was smaller than in the last election, but the party still retained a clear majority in Parliament. The leading opposition party UNITA increased substantially to just over 26%, and the new opposition party Casa-CE emerged thanks to young voters.
The opposition accused the regime of irregularities in the election and demanded that the result be annulled, which was rejected by the Constitutional Court. According to international observers, the choice was reasonably free and fair.
MPLA’s decline was linked to the country’s economic downturn due to falling oil export prices. In addition, dos Santos and his regime were accused of enriching themselves with oil revenues through corruption.
New President João Lourenço promised to rebuild the economy and fight corruption. Despite being handpicked by dos Santos as MPLA’s presidential candidate, Lourenço quickly sought to diminish power within the former president’s circle, even though dos Santos remained as MPLA party leader. The vice president was replaced, and in November, Lourenço surprisingly dismissed Isabel dos Santos from the post of president of the state oil company Sonangol. She had been appointed by her father, the former president, and was now replaced by the veteran in the oil industry who she had previously dismissed.
The oil accounts for about one third of Angola’s GDP and over 95% of exports. But Angola was in recession after the fall in oil prices, unemployment was at least 25%, the country had a shortage of foreign currency and inflation was high.
Before the parliamentary elections, protests against the regime in the capital Luanda and several cities occurred. Several opposition activists were sentenced during the year to shorter prison sentences and were fined since participating in demonstrations demanding fair elections.
In eastern Angola, activists demanded independence for the Lunda Chokwe region. At a June demonstration, police opened fire and killed one participant and injured 13 others. Nearly 80 people were arrested.
Eight men were sentenced in March to prison for between four and ten years accused of leading an attempt to overthrow President dos Santos. The participants in the coup attempt would have been former members of the UNITA guerrilla. UNITA denied involvement.