Angola elections: Early results show ruling MPLA is leading in hotly contested polls

A view of a ballot paper during the general election at Nzinga Mbandi school in the capital Luanda, Angola August 24, 2022. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

A view of a ballot paper during the general election at Nzinga Mbandi school in the capital Luanda, Angola August 24, 2022. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

Published Aug 25, 2022


Cape Town - Angola’s National Electoral Commission says 86.41% votes have been counted so far.

Provisional results in Angola's national election based on over 86% of votes counted showed that the ruling MPLA party is leading, the country's National Electoral Commission (CNE) said on Thursday.

The CNE said the MPLA, which has been in power for nearly five decades, had obtained 52.08% of the votes, with main opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola's (Unita) on 42.98%.

Ballot counting was under way in Angola on Thursday in a tense atmosphere after provisional results from a parliamentary election gave the ruling former Marxist party a strong lead and the opposition dismissed them as unreliable, Reuters reports.

Election officials said in the early hours of Thursday that preliminary results from Wednesday's election showed the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in power for nearly five decades, had garnered 60.65% after a third of votes were counted.

The opposition Unita party led by Adalberto Costa Junior, gained 33.85%, election officials said, without providing key data such as regional voting distribution or voter turnout.

Vote counting has begun in Angola after voters went to the polls on Wednesday in what was widely seen to be the most competitive vote in their country’s democratic history, with incumbent President Joao Lourenco squaring up against charismatic opposition leader Adalberto Costa Junior. Angolans abroad for the first time were also able to cast their ballot.

Eight political parties are running, but the real contest lies between the MPLA and its long-standing rival, Unita.

Opinion polls suggest that support for the MPLA — which won 61% of the vote in 2017 elections — will dwindle, while Unita — which has entered an electoral pact with two other parties — will make gains.

But Unita’s inroads might not be enough to unseat Lourenco, 68, who succeeded veteran leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos five years ago.

The MPLA traditionally wields a grip over the electoral process and state media in Angola, but the opposition is urging supporters not to be intimidated.

Opposition and civic groups have raised fears of voter tampering, and social media is rife with claims of dead people registered to vote.

The opposition has asked supporters to peacefully monitor the counting process and stage sit-ins outside polling places after voting closes.

In the working-class district of Cazenga, 57-year-old Miguel said he would accept the vote’s outcome, whatever it was.

“We have to accept the results, it’s the democratic game,” he said, without giving his surname.

But Alberto Bernardo Muxibo, who described himself as a civil society activist, disagreed.

“We don’t have a real democracy. The government oppresses the people,” he said.

Poverty and graft

Lourenco, a Soviet-educated former general who had promised a new era for Angola when he was first elected, has trumpeted a list of achievements. He is credited with making far-reaching reforms in one of southern Africa’s economic powerhouses.

They include boosting financial transparency and efficiency in parastatal organisations, and promoting business-friendly policies to lure foreign investors.

Johannesburg-based analyst, Marisa Lourenco said Lourenco’s handling of the debt racked up by his predecessor had been “remarkable”.

“The West would not mind an MPLA victory — even with concerns of vote rigging.

“Governments and companies abroad prefer stability over change,” she said.

But little has changed for most of Angola’s 33 million people, for whom life is a daily grind.

Angola is Africa’s second largest crude producer, but the oil bonanza also nurtured corruption and nepotism under Dos Santos, who died in Spain last month. The low-key, night-time repatriation of his remains in the final leg of campaigning has added a macabre touch to the election.

Dos Santos will be buried on Sunday, which would have been his 80th birthday. News of his death and controversy with his family over the resting place of his remains have somehow overshadowed the election.

Some 14.7 million people were registered to vote at 13 200 polling stations across the vast southern African nation.

Results are expected within a few days. In past elections, results have been contested, in a process that can take several weeks.