New constitution allows for Dos Santos to stay in power

Angola’s parliament yesterday approved a new constitution that will allow President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to extend his three- decade-long rule, in a vote that was boycotted by the country’s main opposition party.

The constitution was approved by 186 out of a total 220 votes in parliament, in which the ruling party holds an overwhelming majority over a weak and divided opposition.

Main opposition party Unita refused to participate in the vote, which many had expected would take place in March.

The new charter would keep the president as head of government and the armed forces. It replaces the prime minister with a vice-president, thus strengthening the president’s hand in government.

The president will be the leader of the party that wins the biggest share of the vote for parliament. Under the previous constitution, the president and parliament were elected in two separate elections.

Dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979, faces no strong political rivals, but analysts say that by removing the need for a direct ballot he will avoid the possibility of winning a smaller share of votes than the ruling party.

The ruling party, the MPLA, whose red and black flag resembles that of the Angolan national flag, took 82% of the vote in 2008.

Angola’s economy was expected to grow by 6,5%, compared with a 0,9% contraction last year, as energy demand improved, the World Bank said yesterday.

Taking a strong line against corruption, Dos Santos had vowed that as soon as the new constitution was passed he would form a smaller government with fewer opportunities for graft.

The anticorruption move should be welcomed by investors in a country where an estimated two-thirds of the 16,5-million people live on less than 2 a day despite Angola vying with Nigeria as Africa’s top oil producer.

Human rights groups said billions of dollars in oil revenues had disappeared.

Dos Santos’s family and inner circle hold sway over Angolan business and some are among the richest people on the continent. Angola is the world’s 18th-most corrupt country, according to watchdog Transparency International. Some analysts believe the deadly attack by separatists on the Togo soccer team in Cabinda on January 8, before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations, may have brought the vote forward from March. Reuters.


Source: Africa Investor

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