Voters in the oil-rich African nation of Angola will go to the polls on Wednesday to decide who will lead the country — the party that has been in power for nearly five decades, or an opposition promising a fresh start, especially for disaffected youth.
President João Lourenço of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party is hoping for a second term in office. He has governed Angola since 2017.
Lourenço wrapped up his campaign on Monday, claiming to have built “a new Angola.”
“There have been exactly five years since the moment we started this mandate that is ending now,” he said at a campaign ceremony at the weekend. “We worked during this mandate to make Angola a new Angola, an Angola that is better accepted by the Angolans but also by the international community.”
Angola is the second-biggest oil producer in Africa but the country’s vast oil wealth does not trickle down to many of its impoverished citizens.
A former Portuguese colony, Angola emerged from the wreckage of a 27-year civil war to become one of the continent’s major economic players.
Long-time leader José Eduardo dos Santos of the MPLA party oversaw much of Angola’s post-war economic growth and rebuilding efforts.
Lourenço was the hand-picked successor to dos Santos, who ruled the country for 38 years and made himself and his family enormously wealthy.
His daughter Isabel dos Santos became very powerful during his reign and at one point was the richest woman in Africa.
The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International 2017 said that “nepotism and cronyism” under dos Santos had “stopped ordinary Angolans from benefiting from the country’s natural resource wealth, especially when oil prices were high.”
Upon taking office in 2017, Lourenço pledged to fight corruption and turned on the dos Santos family, firing Isabel and her brother from lucrative positions.
The former President dos Santos died last month while in Spain and his funeral will be held amid the tense election period.
Lourenço vowed to improve the economy but the World Bank says that in rural parts of the country, more than half of the population lives in poverty.
Angola’s capital, Luanda, is also one of the most expensive cities in the world, with a large expat population working in the country’s oil and gas sector.
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