Tag Archives: angola

Portugal holds first post-bailout elections

António Costa, the popular former mayor of Lisbon, campaigns earlier this week. (Facebook)

Portugal might be the only place in crisis-plagued Europe where politics still feel like they’re stuck in the year 2000.portugal flag

There’s no virulent anti-austerity party like Podemos (the far-left movement of indignados in neighboring Spain) or the plucky SYRIZA of Greek prime minister Alexis Tspiras.

There’s no citizen’s movement of the kind that powers Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement in Italy or Czech finance minister and businessman Andrej Babiš’s ANO.

There’s no anti-EU group like Nigel Farage’s UKIP or the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany.

There’s not even an anti-immigrant force like the far-right parties of Scandinavia or Marine Le Pen’s Front national in France.

It’s still a country that only last year returned to GDP growth after four years of recession in the past half-decade, a country with a 13% unemployment rate, a country that has hemorrhaged hundreds of thousands of educated graduates to jobs elsewhere in Europe and the Lusophone world. Portugal concluded its €78 billion bailout in May 2014 ahead of schedule (and without needing a second bailout) after a program of income tax and VAT increases and cuts to social spending, wages, benefits, unemployment benefits and public-sector jobs.

Still, no one seems incredibly angry in Portugal about any of this.

Portuguese prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho and his deputy and foreign minister, Paulo Portas, campaign for reelection for their center-right government. (Facebook)
Portuguese prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho and his deputy and foreign minister, Paulo Portas, campaign for reelection for their center-right government. (Facebook)

That’s perhaps one reason why the current center-right government, headed by prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho, has such a good chance of at winning reelection on October 4, when voters will elect the 230 members of Portugal’s unicameral Assembleia da República (Assembly of the Republic).  Polls show that his center-right electoral coalition, anchored by the Partido Social Democrata (PSD, Social Democratic Party), will win the largest share of the vote. That’s probably only because Passos Coelho was smart enough to join forces with his junior governing partner, the more socially conservative Centro Democrático e Social – Partido Popular (CDS-PP, Democratic and Social Center — People’s Party).

Together, the coalition now holds a narrow lead over the opposition center-left Partido Socialista (PS, Socialist Party), led by the charismatic former mayor of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, António Costa, who has served as a minister in several administrations, most recently as interior minister in the cabinet of now-disgraced former prime minister José Sócrates.

Although the forces of the united Portuguese right will likely fall far short of their 2011 electoral victory, the Socialists will likewise not achieve the same clear victory of the 2009 election. While that means the newly united Portuguese right is favored to win a narrow victory, it also means that no single party will have a majority in the National Assembly.

Another explanation for the election’s conundrums?

No one really cares.  Continue reading Portugal holds first post-bailout elections

As expected, Dos Santos and the MPLA are leading the vote count in Angola

It wasn’t a surprise — Angola’s president José Eduardo dos Santos has won reelection, following the parliamentary victory of his Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – Partido do Trabalho (MPLA or the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party) after elections on Friday, September 1 with nearly 74% of the vote.

Read about the run-up to the election here — no one predicted that the elections would be free or fair.

From Reuters:

The provisional results gave the MPLA’s closest challenger, former rebel group UNITA, nearly 18 percent, while the third-placed CASA-CE party was approaching five percent in its first election test after being formed by UNITA dissident Abel Chivukuvuku four months ago.

Chivukuvuku told reporters his party, which along with UNITA had complained repeatedly of serious irregularities in the vote preparations and the electoral process, was analysing the results before deciding whether to accept or reject them.

But another prominent CASA-CE member, candidate for Luanda William Tonet, dismissed the provisional results as “cheating taken to its maximum level”.

“This is like a declaration of war by the MPLA … it indicates to citizens that there can be no alternative through the electoral route,” he told Reuters.

Angola votes today

Although it’s incredibly, overwhelmingly likely that, José Eduardo dos Santos, Angola’s president since 1979, will be reelected, and his party, the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – Partido do Trabalho (MPLA or the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party) will likely retain control of Angola’s Assembleia Nacional, Angola will go through the motions of an election today — its second since the end of a 30-year civil war in 2002.

Notwithstanding the fact that the election is not seen as being free and fair — even yesterday, opposition campaigners were arrested at the at the national election commission in Luanda, Angola’s capital, for trying to obtain credentials to observe voting — one key question is whether the MPLA will retain the 191 seats (out of 220) it currently holds, or whether the opposition União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA or the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) will be allowed to win more seats.  The MPLA and UNITA today are remnants of the two major groups that contested Angola’s civil war.  A third group, the Convergência Ampla de Salvação de Angola (the Casa-CE, or the Broad Convergence for Angola’s Salvation-Electoral Coalition), is trying to bring a new, postwar identity to Angolan politics.

Overwhelmingly, the main issue in the election campaign has been poverty — despite Angola’s oil wealth, over 40% of the country’s 18.5 million citizens remains impoverished.

Until we have the results, I’ve linked to Bonga (José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho), one of the most popular musicians in Angola’s samba musical tradition.

Follow Suffragio‘s coverage of the Angolan election here.

It’s election week in Angola (but don’t expect a real election)

So Angola goes to the polls this week, and José Eduardo dos Santos, Angola’s president since 1979 (pictured above), will overwhelmingly be reelected, notwithstanding the rumblings of dissent among the young, the poor and the unemployed.

The expectations are that Friday’s election will not be free and fair, as I’ve noted in the past.

But a semi-authoritarian regime with sham elections is a vast improvement on decades of civil war.  So Angola’s making progress, in that in the past decade, the country has pulled definitively out of a 30-year civil war, which began almost immediately after its independence in 1975.  A ceasefire declared in 2002 has held, and the country will have “elections” now for the second time since fighting ended.

An oil boom, too, has boosted the Angolan economy — the country recorded some of the world’s highest GDP growth rates in the past decade, including growth over 20% from 2005 to 2007, and it’s thought to be China’s largest oil supplier.  A drop in oil prices slowed Angola’s growth, but the country is expected to grow at around 10% in 2012 — oil production accounts for nearly 45% of the country’s GDP.

That’s where the good news ends.

Around 40% of the country’s 18.5 million citizens remains mired in poverty, and that fact, and the country’s stark rich-poor divide, has been the central issue in the campaigning leading up to the Angolan election.

Political parties in Angola still correspond to the two major groups that contested the civil war.

Dos Santos’s Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – Partido do Trabalho (MPLA or the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party) currently controls 191 of the 220 seats in Angola’s Assembleia Nacional.

The main opposition party is the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA or the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola).  Although the MLPA is dominated by the northern Ambundu ethnic group and UNITA by the more southern Ovimbundu group, ethnicity does not play an especially huge role in Angolan politics, nor do standard measures of political ideology.

Isaias Samakuva, UNITA’s leader, has called for the election to be postponed in order to ensure a fairer process, and UNITA has accused dos Santos’s regime of widespread interference in the election process and rigging the vote through the use of state funds and through the control of the state media.  Continue reading It’s election week in Angola (but don’t expect a real election)

Dim hope for free and fair elections under dos Santos in oil-boom Angola


Angola is booming these days — and its capital Luanda, in particular (pictured, above), is booming, flush from the diamonds-and-oil wealth of a country that’s entering just its second decade of peace following independence in 1975 and a civil war that divided the lusophone southern African country of 18.5 million for the ensuing three decades.

For most Angolans, however, around 40% of whom still live in poverty, the benefits of one of the world’s best performing economies of the past decade have still not trickled down.  And that’s what should be the top issue when Angolans head to the polls on August 31 to elect members to the Assembleia Nacional.

Nonetheless, there’s no real indication that the elections will be any more than a show elections for the current regime:

The Angolan government is responsible for numerous incidents of political violence, intimidation of protesters, and crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations that might have a negative impact on the August 31, 2012 parliamentary elections, Human Rights said in a report released today. The government should end its crackdown on peaceful protests and the media with the start of the election campaign on August 1.

The 13-page report, “Angola’s Upcoming Elections: Attacks on the Media, Expression, and Assembly,” describes increasing incidents of political violence and intimidation. Human Rights Watch called on the government of Angola to promptly address these concerns, and urged the Southern African Development Community and the capital’s foreign diplomats to raise these issues with the government.

“The human rights environment in Angola is not conducive for free, fair, and peaceful elections,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Angolan government needs to stop trying to stifle peaceful protests, gag the independent press, or use the state media for partisan purposes if these elections are to be meaningful.”

 The president of Angola, at least nominally, since 1979, has been José Eduardo dos Santos, who is Africa’s second-longest serving leader.  Functionally, from 1979 until the end of Angola’s civil war in 2002, he was merely the leader of one side in a grueling civil war in a country used by both the United States and the Soviet Union as a deadly hot proxy for the Cold War through much of independent Angola’s early history — the civil war reached a less lethal phase only in 1991, with the end of the Cold War and the cessation of arms shipments to the combatants from the United States and from the Soviet Union.

Luanda, now one of the boomtowns of sub-Saharan Africa, is a city transformed.  As Felix Salmon noted last year, only 156 Angolan visas were issues to southbound Portuguese, but by 2010, that number was 23,787.  That may tell you something about the state of Portugal’s economy, but it also says something about Angola’s.  Despite significant slowdown (2010’s GDP growth rate was only 3.4%), Angola managed GDP growth of over 20% for each of 2005, 2006 and 2007, and hit nearly 14% in 2008 as well.  Angola’s oil production has increased so rapidly that it is thought to be China’s top oil supplier.

Angola’s Assembleia Nacional has 220 seats. In the last election, dos Santos’s Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – Partido do Trabalho (MPLA or the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party; yes, quite a mouthful) won fully 191 of those seats.  Since then, dos Santos has survived an assassination attempt and increasingly vocal protests against his rule.  Despite this unrest, and despite the passage of an anti-fraud electoral law in late 2011, no one believes dos Santos and the MPLA will wake up out of power after the August 31 election.

The country’s politics are still divided on lines that go back to its civil war — the main opposition is the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA or the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola).  The one-time Soviet-backed MLPA is still dominated by the more northern Ambundu ethnic group (which represents around 25% of Angolans), while the US-backed UNITA is still dominated by the more southern Ovimbundu (37% of Angolans).  Even today, though, oil-rich Cabinda province, a sliver of Angola separated from the rest of the country by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, remains separatist-minded, despite the end of the civil war 10 years ago — it is dominated by Angola’s third-largest ethnic group, the Bakongo (about 13% of all Angolans — this group, too, had its own political entity in the Angolan civil war).

UNITA launched its campaign Wednesday, promising a more equal distribution of the gains from Angola’s economic boom, especially in the form of renewed investment in health, education, housing and employment.

While, it’s a platform that sounds fairly pedestrian and reasonable, but it’s still risible to think that UNITA would even have the opportunity to carry through with that agenda.

Angola may have mercifully put its civil war behind it, and a brighter economic future may well beckon, but it looks like the evolution of true democratic institutions will wait for a day beyond 2012.

Photo credit to Veziana Armandi via Flickr.