Angola: President Lourenco kicks off with tough economic warning

Angola's Joao Lourenco has been sworn in on Tuesday as president replacing Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the oil-rich country with an iron grip for 38 years. Who is the man who ran on the ticket of the MPLA?

Joao Lourenco is considered to be a loyal party soldier - a man who has always been ready to take on greater responsibility in the governing People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He served as governor in several provinces of Angola, and between 1992 and 1997 he was responsible for propaganda in the MPLA's Politburo. Later, he served as the party's secretary-general for several years.

Lourenco was recently the country's defense minister before becoming the ruling party's flag-bearer in the August 23 parliamentary election to replace long-term President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. "He is continuing to take on responsibility now," state-run newspaper Jornal de Angola wrote, praising him.

However, Lourenco's ambition almost cost him his career in the past.

In 2003, he fell into a trap: He put himself forward as a possible successor in the country's highest political office as dos Santos began openly thinking about stepping down. However, at that time, dos Santos did not really want to abdicate. Instead, he wanted to find out whether there were opponents with ambitions of power within the MPLA.

The background: Jonas Savimbi, leader of the former liberation movement UNITA, had just fallen in battle. The MPLA celebrated its victory over the rebels and dos Santos was publicly playing with the idea of standing down because his most important promise as head of state had been fulfilled.

Lourenco's push to the front was badly timed and he fell into disfavor for several years.

The resilient politician

It took 10 years for Lourenco to recover from this faux pas. In December 2016, he reached his goal. Following a proposal by party chairman dos Santos, the central committee of the ruling party decided to place Lourenco as No. 1 on its ticket for the August 2017 poll, thus making him the party's presidential candidate.

In the last election in 2012, the all-powerful governing party polled over 70 percent of the votes. And this time, too, everything had pointed to a victory - despite great dissatisfaction among Angolans and despite a severe economic and financial crisis.

The fact is, the MPLA controls the money and the media, and dominates everything during election campaigns. The five opposition parties are poorly organized, have little money to finance the election campaign, and do not manage to get their messages to the people.

Old promise in new packaging

"We are the guarantors of development and progress, we create new jobs, and we improve the health and school systems" - these are Lourenco's campaign messages, and they could be seen and heard by Angolans on all broadcasting channels.

The party produced radio and TV programs and printed newspapers and pamphlets. It organized election campaigns in all provinces, handed out T-shirts, beer and other gifts.

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