State and politics
Angola was a socialist one-party state from independence
in 1975. Since 1991, the country has formally a multi-party
system, but the continuing war put an end to the
democratization process. Even after the end of the civil war
in 2002, the previously only allowed party MPLA retained
power. José Eduardo dos Santos, president from 1979–2017, is
one of the African heads of state who held office for the
The current constitution came into force in 2010 and
replaced the previous one from 1992. The constitution was
approved by a vote in Parliament; this was boycotted by
UNITA, which is the only opposition party of any real
The president's power is great and with the
constitutional changes even greater. In addition to the Head
of State and Government, the President is also
Commander-in-Chief. In the past, the president appoints the
highest court members and also the governors of the 18
provinces. The direct, general presidential elections were
abolished by the new constitution. Instead, the person at
the top of the list for the largest party in the
parliamentary elections automatically becomes president.
Since 2010, the president has only been allowed to sit for
two terms in five years. The law began to apply from the
2012 election, which meant that José Eduardo dos Santos,
president since 1979, could remain; he resigned in
conjunction with the 2017 elections. Angola has since held
three presidencies, all men.
Parliament has 220 directly elected members and three
more elected by Angolans abroad. As of the 2012 election,
the term of office is five years.
The first elections after the introduction of the
multi-party system were held in 1992. MPLA became by far the
largest party and the incumbent president, MPLA leader José
Eduardo dos Santos, received 49.6 percent of the vote. The
second round of the presidential election could not be held
as the guerrilla movement UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi refused
to approve the election result despite the approval of
international observers. Savimbi resumed war actions and
only after Savimbi's death in 2002 was a peace agreement
Then it was until 2008 before a new parliamentary
election took place. In this, MPLA received 82 percent of
the vote and 191 of 220 seats, while UNITA received 16
seats. The presidential election scheduled for 2009 has been
postponed pending the new constitution. MPLA has been
criticized for widespread corruption and for failing to
respect human rights. However, the 2012 election was
approved by international observers. MPLA's support
decreased by 10 percentage points, but with 72 percent of
the vote and 175 seats, the party's victory was still
indisputable. UNITA increased from 10 percent to 19 percent
of the vote. The MPLA's victory meant that dos Santos could
remain as president.
Prior to the 2017 election, dos Santos announced that he
would not run for another term. Instead, MPLA launched
Defense Minister João Lourenço as the party's presidential
candidate. Like 2012, UNITA went ahead at the expense of the
ruling party, but MPLA still won a clear victory with 61
percent of the vote and 150 of the 220 electoral seats.
Thus, Lourenço became the country's third president.
For more detailed accounts of the elections, see Annual
Reports 2008 and 2012. See also History.
The country's highest court, the Supreme Court and the
Court of Appeal, is located in Luanda. The substantive right
is based on the Portuguese legal heritage. The death penalty
was abolished in Angola in 1992.
The excessive force of police and military force during
the civil war has diminished since the end of the war. It
still appears that peaceful protests are being met with
police violence, arbitrary arrests and threats against
participants and journalists. Corruption is widespread and
Although freedom of the press is guaranteed in the
constitution, freedom of expression is severely limited.
There is a lack of independent media and self-censorship is
common. Freelance journalists run the risk of being brought
to trial. In the state media, popular protests against the
government are often rewritten as a threat to peace. In
Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015,
Angola is ranked 123 out of 180.
Large groups of Angolans live in informal settlements,
and forced evictions occur. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how AO can stand for Angola.
Domestic violence is widespread, but there are trends
that indicate a growing awareness of the problem. Abortion
is permitted only when the life of the woman or the natural
development of the fetus is in danger. Child labor occurs
and reports of child prostitution are available. Trafficking
in children and women, where Angola is both a country of
origin and a destination country, is a problem that has
received increased attention.
Heads of State
||José Eduardo dos Santos