The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been in power for 37 years with Jose Eduardo Dos Santos as president since 1979. The August 2012 election will be the first with presidential implications in a decade. Under the controversial new constitution imposed in 2010, direct elections were abolished meaning that since the National Assembly elects the president, whoever leads the winning party will become president. Seventy-year-old President Dos Santos recently announced he would be heading the MPLA in the poll while nominating former Sonangol CEO and current economics minister Manuel Vincente as his number two, creating considerable intrigue within the top of the MPLA. Over the past year, Luanda has seen unprecedented demonstrations led by Angolan youth supported by civil society and opposition groups, yet the movement failed to build up leadership and remained scattered. The Angolan government has been internationally criticised for brutally breaking up the rallies and for pre- emptive imprisonments.

Impact on country risk

Angola has had a strong growth path boosted by oil production ever since the three-decade civil war - fought between the current main opposition party UNITA and the ruling MPLA - ended in 2002. In addition, Africa’s second largest oil producer recovered from the 2009 downturn and ever since developed a robust financial and economic position. Nonetheless poverty, significant inequality, rampant corruption and repression could constitute the perfect mix for an ‘Angolan Arab Spring’. However, after decades of conflict the Angolan people seem to prefer stability over freedom, which makes the ruling MPLA relatively popular. Considering in addition the MPLA’s tight grip on state institutions and the fractioned opposition, it is widely expected for the ruling party to return to power on 31 August 2012.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com