Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos revealed on Friday (3/02/17) he will not contest in this year’s presidential election, calling an end to 38 years as head of state, but will retain control of the powerful ruling party (MPLA).
He will remain president of the MPLA, retaining powers that include choosing parliamentary candidates and appointing top posts in the army and police.
Dos Santos, aged 74, said in March 2016, he would not run in election due in August (2017) but opponents remained suspicious given he had reneged on similar pledges during nearly four decades running Angola, according to Reuters.
In a televised speech on Friday, the ruling party MPLA endorsed 62-year-old Defence Minister Joao Lourenco as its presidential candidate at a meeting on December 2.
Speaking to the media, Lourenco indicated that he was prepared to step out of dos Santos’ shadow and lead the ruling party’s campaign despite having only seven months before national polls.
“It is a big challenge, but I believe that although difficult, it is not impossible to replace president dos Santos,” Lourenco said in the capital Luanda shortly after the announcement of his candidacy.
José Eduardo dos Santos has been
President of Angola since 1979.
He is the second-longest-serving leader in Africa, surpassed only by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea , who took power less than two months before dos Santos.
In June 1975, dos Santos became coordinator of the MPLA’s Department of Foreign Affairs; he also coordinated the MPLA’s Department of Health at this time.
Upon Angolan independence in November 1975, the MPLA held power in Luanda, but the new MPLA government faced a civil war with the other political formations, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA ) and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA).
After constitutional changes in 2010, Angola does not directly elect a president, but the leader of the winning party automatically becomes head of state.