December 5, 2022

João Lourenço – Angolan President looks to extend MPLA’s half-century reign as election approaches

João Lourenço
President João Lourenço of Angola

João Lourenço is the President of Angola and has been in office since September 26, 2017. He is just the third President of Angola since the nation gained independence nearly five decades ago.

President Lourenço is running for re-election in the general election scheduled for August of 2022. Lourenço’s predecessor José Eduardo dos Santos was the President of Angola for 38 years.

According to the constitution established in 2010, Presidents are now permitted to serve no more than two five year terms. All of Angola’s Presidents have been members of People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, the nation’s perpetual ruling party.

As the 2022 election draws closer, Lourenço’s administration has faced plenty of criticism. Thousands of opposition voices took to the streets in protest when Lourenço took steps to centralize the counting of votes rather than leaving it to local levels in September of 2021.

The nation of Angola is at a critical point where an economic crisis as well as political instability threaten the country’s future. 2020 was Angola’s fifth straight year with a negative GDP change. One of Africa’s largest oil producers, Angola’s already struggling economy was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past few decades, corruption has become increasingly entrenched in many aspects of life in Angola. Some were optimistic that Lourenço’s presidency could mean impactful change in this regard as he has communicated a strong desire to combat corruption. Since taking office, he has taken some steps to weaken systematic and institutional corruption.

However, corruption and abuses of power remain serious and pervasive issues in Angola. Additionally, some of Lourenço’s critics conjecture that anti-corruption efforts have been more about settling personal vendettas than combating widespread systemic injustices.

In April of 2022, Human Rights Watch called for the release of 22 prisoners that had been arrested for protesting for free and fair elections, saying, “Angolan police are showing their longstanding disregard for basic rights by arresting and detaining peaceful protesters.”

As Angola approaches its general election and President Lourenço looks to extend MPLA’s reign, human rights organizations have encouraged a free and fair election grounded in integrity and progress.

With João Lourenço’s first term in office coming to an end, there is still much work to be done in Angola as it looks to recover from economic recession, political tensions, and human rights concerns.

Prior to being chosen as José dos Santos’s successor, Lourenço was Angola’s Minister of National Defence from 2014 to 2017. Lourenço was First Vice-President of the National Assembly from 2003 to 2014. He is also a longtime member of MPLA and has held many high ranking positions within the party.

João Lourenço was born in 1954 and became involved in political matters at a very early age, fighting against the Portuguese in the Angolan War of Independence. He would go on to fight with MPLA in the Angolan Civil War. He took military training and completed a master’s degree in Historical Sciences in the Soviet Union.

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