he year 2016 was
no different from
any other year
when it comes to
the themes that
agenda – but the
intensity certainly
was a few notches
up. Angolans saw
in the new year suffering from major
hangovers from the previous year – the
unfinished business that seems to be
the staple, with key developments dragging on, over years before a resolution
emerges. Chief among these was the onoff debate over the succession of President José Eduardo dos Santos, the equally on-off trial against journalists doing
their job, in specific Rafael Marques,
and last but not least the on-off-on-off
regulation of the media sector, left hanging in abeyance since the enactment of
the Press Law in 2006.

Habemus presidentum?
Uncertainty over the eventual exit from
politics of the 74-year old President Dos
Santos continues, despite overwhelming
‘evidence’ that now it is a done deal.
With legislative elections scheduled to
be held in Angola on August 23 of this
year, it would appear that Dos Santos
will indeed finally hand over power
after almost four decades in power. In
terms of the new constitution of 2010,
the country ceased to have presidential elections, opting for the party-list
proportional representation system,
with the number one candidate of the
winning party automatically becoming
president. The change offered a surgical
solution to the irksome debate around
Dos Santos’s tenure, limited to two fiveyear terms under the 1975 and 1992
constitutions, both of which failed to
provide a clear answer on when Dos
Santos’s presidency actually started,


So This is Democracy? 2016

given that the second round of presidential elections against UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi never took place. Likewise,
there was no clarity on whether or not
Dos Santos had served his two terms, as
the country was in and out of war, making it impossible to hold elections.
There is good reason for the uncertainty
to persist. News of Dos Santos’s departure have over the years been emblazoned on front-pages on a number of
occasions. In 2016, these pencilled a
see-saw of contradicting developments,
starting with an announcement in March
that Dos Santos was grooming one of his
children to take over the reins. The news
gained momentum when also in March,
it was announced that Dos Santos
would leave office in 2018. However,
this puzzled analysts, as elections were
scheduled for 2017, which begged the
question of how Dos Santos would stay
on as president and then hand over to a
stand-in candidate. In June Dos Santos
announced that he was contesting the
July elections for the presidency of the
MPLA. With no other contender, Dos
Santos was unanimously elected, being
endorsed by the party in August.
The debate culminated with the news
in December that a successor to President Dos Santos had been identified in
the person of João Lourenço. However,
at no point was it made clear that Dos
Santos was out of the picture, with the
final list still subject to adjustments as
it moved along a number of steps in the
approval process in the party’s political
bureau and central committee between
January and February of 2017. For much
of the recent past, Deputy President Manuel Vicente had been widely expected
to fill Dos Santos’s shoes when the time
came, but the once pivotal party stalwart
has since not only been overshadowed,
but also implicated in investigations in
Portugal into shady dealings involving

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