Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos signalled the oil-producing nation’s first post-war presidential election, scheduled for 2009, would have to wait at least another three years.
In his closing speech to the ruling MPLA party’s national congress in Luanda, dos Santos said he wanted his government to serve out its four-year mandate, effectively delaying the presidential election until 2012.
The announcement came after the MPLA said it would use its majority in parliament to approve a new constitution that would allow the president and parliament to be elected through a single vote instead of two, as is currently the case.
“It’s desirable that MPLA can complete its mandate, which it obtained at the polls last year, to govern the country,” dos Santos said to loud applause from around 2000 party members.
The MPLA won over 82% of the vote in parliamentary elections last year the first since Angola’s brutal 27-year civil war ended in 2002. Dos Santos said at the time that presidential elections would take place the following year.
The presidential vote will be the first since the end of Angola’s three-decade long civil war in 2002, and only the second in the country’s history.
Dos Santos won the first round of Angola’s presidential election in 1992, which took place during a lull in fighting between the ruling MPLA and rebels from the opposition UNITA party.
But UNITA former leader Jonas Savimbi refused to accept the results and the fighting resumed. Savimbi was killed by government troops in 2002.
After last year’s landslide parliamentary victory, dos Santos remained tight-lipped for several months before his party announced it was drafting a new constitution that would change the way a president is elected.
In the MPLA’s draft constititution project, the person who heads the list for the party that wins most votes in an election becomes the president. The MPLA also plans to replace the prime minister’s post with that of a vice-president.
Angola’s opposition parties and rights groups have accused dos Santos, who has ruled over one of Africa’s top oil producers for three decades, of repeatedly delaying presidential elections since the end of the civil war in order to remain in power.
Despite his marathon rule and lack of a possible successor, the MPLA continues to show strong support for the 67-year old leader. The MPLA re-elected him as head of the party on Wednesday with 1964 votes out of a possible 2080.
“It was a surprise for me to see that 99 percent of the delegates, through a secret vote, voted in this way,” dos Santos, who was the only candidate running for the post, said after the vote.
“For me this vote means the MPLA and its delegates in the congress want me to work harder and better in order to defend the rights of our party.”
The four-day MPLA congress, which ended yesterday, has been marked by calls from the president for his party to do more to fight corruption and poverty in a country where an estimated 60% of the 16.5 million population live in desperate conditions, according to dos Santos.
Angola, which rivals Nigeria as Africa’s top oil producer, is also among the world’s 18 most corrupt nations, according to a recent survey by London-based Transparency International.