Sea of yellow balloons cheers Angola's Lourenco at election rally

Sea of yellow balloons cheers Angola's Lourenco at election rally

Over 14 million people are registered to vote Wednesday when polls open in what has been described as the tightest election since Angola emerged from a lengthy civil war two decades ago
Over 14 million people are registered to vote Wednesday when polls open in what has been described as the tightest election since Angola emerged from a lengthy civil war two decades ago. Photo: Julio PACHECO NTELA / AFP
Source: AFP

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Waving flags and yellow balloons, thousands of supporters of Angola's ruling party danced in jubilation Saturday at a final campaign rally in Luanda by President Joao Lourenco, who is seeking re-election next week.

In contrast, Lourenco’s tone while delivering his last-ditch speech to supporters of the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party was steady and sombre.

The military officer turned politician addressed the cheering crowd gathered in a field on the outskirts of the capital Luanda, trumpeting economic reforms enacted during his first term in an effort to conjure confidence the MPLA, which has held power since independence in 1975.

"We made and restructured our economy," he told the sea of followers donning the colours of the country's flag of red, black and yellow.

He promised to invest in electricity production and build refineries to better capitalise on the country's oil riches among other things.

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"The speech was great," said Aberto Leal Moniz, an MPLA activist and school teacher.

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"Many services that the president promised in his last speech (in 2017) have mostly been executed. He promised us a new train, we have it. Everything is in place."

Despite growing support for UNITA -- the largest of seven opposition parties competing in the elections -- Lourenco is widely expected to secure a second term
Despite growing support for UNITA -- the largest of seven opposition parties competing in the elections -- Lourenco is widely expected to secure a second term. Photo: Julio PACHECO NTELA / AFP
Source: AFP

Over 14 million people are registered to vote Wednesday when polls open in what has been described as the tightest election since Angola emerged from a lengthy civil war two decades ago.

Little has changed

If the MPLA is nervous, though, there were no signs of it Saturday.

Supporters were on their feet for the hours-long rally, which included live music from a rapping duo – whose presence was a nod to the much sought-after youth voters.

Long favoured for having liberated the country from colonial powers and ending a brutal civil war in 2002, the MPLA's firm grip on power is being tested amid rising poverty driven by inflation and the worst drought the country had seen in decades.

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Lourenco promised to usher in a new era for Angola when he was first elected in 2017, having inherited an oil-dependent economy deep in recession.

The nearly four-decade tenure of his predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos saw members of his family capitalise on the nation's oil while most Angolans remained mired in poverty.

Although handpicked by dos Santos, upon taking office Lourenco led an anti-corruption drive and launched an ambitious reform plan to differentiate revenue streams and privatise state-owned firms.

"We changed the role of the central bank... We corrected and defined its true role as an issuing bank, a regulatory bank, without political interference, let alone economic agents or citizens," he told the rally on Saturday.

Yet, little has changed for many of Angola's 33 million people who struggle to put food on the table in the oil-rich nation.

Many voters are flocking to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the largest of seven opposition parties competing in the elections.

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UNITA's charismatic leader Adalberto Costa Junior, has broadened the party's support appealing in particular to young voters born after the civil war who do not feel an allegiance to the MPLA.

Despite UNITA's growing support, Lourenco is widely expected to secure a second term.

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Source: AFP

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