The Presidential Succession in Angola: When, Who and How?

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Presidential succession is one of the most important phenomena in African politics, yet it is rarely the subject of serious research.  Ruling parties often fail to agree a new presidential candidate, resulting in party splits and the creation of new opposition parties.  In turn, these processes can undermine the campaigns of ruling parties and create windows of opportunity for the opposition to win power – even in relatively authoritarian contexts.  I wrote a blog piece about this back in June 2011, pointing out that the majority of opposition victories in Africa occur in elections that are held after an instance of presidential succession – to read more about and for an article that provides data for the continent click here.  In this blog entry, regular DiA contributor Rafael Marques de Morais gives his perspective on the controversy surrounding when President Dos Santos should (and will) stand down in Angola.

The past year witnessed a critical shift in Angolan politics with regular youth-led public protests calling for the President’s resignation. Two factors made the outcry for Dos Santos to step down the main challenge to both the conventional political discourse and public perceptions of power: the 2010 Constitution and the popular uprisings in North Africa.

Here I provide a brief narrative of the power struggles between the President and his own party, since the establishment of a multiparty system in 1991. It addresses the deployment of constitutional coups, patronage and legal measures to address such internal rifts, as well as the consequences that reverberate today.

The Opportunity

The 2008 legislative elections offered President Dos Santos the most legitimate, ambitious and unique opportunity to extend his grip on power, as well as to reform the state and its political economy. His ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had won by a landslide (81.64 percent). Furthermore, the newfound democratic legitimacy had been magnified by five main elements: double-digit growth rates (an average 14.2 percent real GDP growth of from 2005-2009) , Chinese control of a fast-paced nationwide program of national reconstruction, the squashing of the political opposition, overwhelming international endorsement, and an atmosphere of hope within the country.

Such reforms would, in turn, enable the President to establish the timing and the conditions for his own exit strategy from power. By building strong and democratic institutions, the President would demonstrate great statesmanship in devolving power to the state institutions. These, in turn, would afford the President the legal and political protection for his peaceful retirement in the country.

But the course of events suggests that a different political outcome is likely…

To find out why download the full article here

For Rafael’s excellent website, go to www.makaangola.org

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