- Title: Angola will have a new president for the first time in four decades.
- Date: 18th August 2017
- Summary: LUANDA, ANGOLA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RALLY FOR RULING PARTY, PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT FOR THE LIBERATION OF ANGOLA (MPLA)
- Embargoed: 1st September 2017 11:35
- Keywords: Election MPLA UNITA Jose Eduardo Dos Santos
- Location: LUANDA, ANGOLA
- City: LUANDA, ANGOLA
- Country: Angola
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA0016UOPI6V
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Angola goes to the polls on August 23 and the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) is fielding a different candidate for the first time in 38 years.
Sixty two-year-old Joao Lourenco steps into the shadow of Africa's second longest-running leader Jose Eduardo Dos Santos who is not running for president of the country but retains control of the powerful ruling party.
Lourenco will face Dos Santos' long-time rival, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Isaias Samakuva.
UNITA won just 18 percent in the last election in 2012 and the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) won a landslide 72 percent.
With Angola in the midst of an economic crisis caused by a fall in oil prices, the opposition is hoping to improve its tally, though a lack of credible polling in the country makes the result unpredictable.
Samakuva has said he is willing to form a coalition government with other opposition parties after elections next Wednesday if MPLA loses power for the first time since independence in 1975.
UNITA is campaigning on a broad platform for change, promising to increase spending on education and health, combat corruption and open the economy to more foreign investment.
Former military officer Antonio Diogo has supported MPLA for the last 25 years. He says he feels let down by the government and this time will not vote.
The 65-year-old father of eight says he struggles to make ends meet, has no basic services at home like running water and neither him nor his grown children have been able to find work.
Since he left the army he has not received any assistance from the government despite having been active in combat.
"As I said before, my situation is very bad because I do not work and have no other way of making an income. From the old combatant organization I get nothing. My children are hardly studying, others are not. The one who is studying travels long distances to school and sometimes they miss school for a week or two because we don't have money for transport, that is why I am very unhappy. I wish I could at least receive a salary to support them," said Diogo.
Dos Santos led an oil-backed economic boom and the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002.
Then the country slipped into recession last year with the economy contracting 3.6 percent, according to government data that was published online in April but later removed.
Unemployment is over 20 percent.
"People say Angola is a very rich country, but rich in what sense? We have potential richness but it is not real wealth. Real wealth happens when there is serious investment in education and health. Countries like Japan have invested a lot in the education sector and they are what they are now, but it means we have to invest seriously in these two sectors if we really want to get out of the situation we are in," said politics professor, Fernando Manuel.
Critics accuse Dos Santos of mismanaging Angola's oil wealth and making an elite, mainly his family and political allies, vastly rich in a country ranked amongst the world's most corrupt.
Angolans in the streets of the capital Luanda are cautiously optimistic of the prospects of life under a new president for the first time in nearly four decades.
"My opinion is that we need to have a free and fair election so we can have better education systems and healthcare. I do not care who wins, I just want better living conditions for all of us. This is the most important. Angolans should not live as foreigners in their own country," said one resident.
"Elections are a civic obligation and we will all participate. We have watched TV, the projects of all the political parties. I hope the new government can do a better job, because there is a lot to be done in this country. We have a lot of problems, unemployment, hunger, few universities and few schools and hospitals. So the new government should make it better and much more in other aspects," said another.
The European Union has scrapped plans to observe the elections after Luanda failed to agree to a package of conditions, including access to all parts of the country during the poll, it said in July.
Samakuva said UNITA would have party members at every polling station to monitor the count.
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