Head of Angola’s ruling MPLA party, former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, said on Friday his party should wait until December or April 2018 before choosing his replacement.
This leaves open the possibility that dos Santos will remain head of the party into 2019. He ha d previously assured that he would leave “active political life” this year.
Dos Santos handpicked Angola’s new President João Lourenço to succeed him when he stepped down last September. This came after being in power for 38 years. But held onto his position as head of the party, creating two centres of power in the oil-producing nation.
I recommend that… the party’s extraordinary congress which will resolve the question of the leadership of the MPLA be in December 2018 or April 2019;
Since then he has been under increasing pressure to give up the presidency of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The MPLA has governed Angola continuously since independence from Portugal in 1975.
Lourenço has moved against some of dos Santos’ old allies. He has removed family members from key positions, including his daughter, Isabel, from the chair of state oil company Sonangol. He also replaced José Filomeno, an ally of dos Santos, at the sovereign wealth fund.
Party stalwarts have also come out to ensure dos Santos keeps his word to step down in 2018.
But, rumours on social media suggested Friday’s central committee meeting could force his removal. In response, dos Santos moved pre-emptively to set his own timeline.
“I recommend that it would be most prudent that the party’s extraordinary congress which will resolve the question of the leadership of the MPLA be in December 2018 or April 2019,” he told the central committee at the opening of the meeting.
Alex Vines at London’s Chatham House, says the maneuver was typical of a politician bent on staying in power.
“He has recently been under mounting pressure to step aside from the MPLA presidency but has shown that this will be partly on his own terms,” Vines said.
Dos Santos remains hugely powerful as head of the party. And has influence over the way lawmakers vote in parliament and party policy proposals. However, his relationship with Lourenço has reportedly deteriorated significantly.
“A transition of power after almost 38 years was never going to be simple or smooth, and the tug-of-war over the MPLA presidency is a reminder that this transition is still in its infancy,” Vines said.