Joao Lourenco, the president of Angola, was elected to a second five-year term on Monday after his MPLA party scored a narrow victory in last week’s fiercely contested election, continuing decades of control in the oil-rich nation.
When the results of the election were revealed by the electoral commission it was clear that the opposition made significant gains while his party won with a narrow majority. He pledged to be the “president of all Angolans” and to start a conversation.
“This is a victory for Angola and Angolans,” Lourenco, 68, said in his inaugural address shortly after the unveiling of the result of the August 24 ballot.
“This vote was a vote of confidence, which gives us the immense responsibility of promoting dialogue and social consultation.”
According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, the biggest rival, received 43.95 percent of the votes versus the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola’s (51.17%) (UNITA).
Despite winning, the result, which was the closest in Angola’s history, was a low point for the MPLA and may perhaps end up in court after UNITA had rejected provisional results.
According to election officials, four of the electoral commission’s 16 members did not approve the final results.
The MPLA has always exercised influence over the election system, and civic and opposition groups have expressed concerns about voter tampering.
Adalberto Costa Junior, the 60-year-old leader of UNITA, demanded that an international commission assess the count last week.
International observers raised concerns over the electoral roll and biased reporting by state-owned television, but most said voting was peaceful and well organised.
The MPLA, a former Marxist liberation movement, has ruled Angola for nearly half a century since independence from Portugal in 1975 but it has seen a steady decline in support over recent elections.
While it romped to victory with 71.84 percent in 2012, it dropped to 61 percent in 2017.
UNITA scored 26.67 percent in 2017 elections and contested the official count.
There was no celebration and honking of horns as in previous elections on the streets of Luanda.
The results gave the MPLA 124 of the 220 parliamentary seats up for grabs while UNITA won 90.
The latest election has been overshadowed by a struggling economy, inflation, poverty, drought and the death of Lourenco’s predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
Dos Santos was buried in Luanda at a solemn funeral on Sunday.
The opposition has proved popular in urban areas, winning in the capital Luanda and among youth disaffected with the ruling party.
Angola is Africa’s second largest crude producer, but the oil bonanza has been accompanied by corruption and nepotism.
Lourenco, a former general educated in the Soviet Union, is credited with far-reaching reforms since taking power, including boosting financial transparency, tackling graft and attracting foreign investors.
But critics say his anti-graft crusade has been one-sided and aimed at settling political scores, targeting children and cronies of dos Santos.
His economic reforms have also so far failed to translate into better living conditions for most Angolans, critics say.