LISBON- Angola’s long-serving President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has until June 19 to announce whether he will lead his MPLA party in an election to be held in August, according to a timetable announced on Wednesday.
The August 31 election – only the second since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002 – will choose lawmakers and the president in Africa’s second-largest oil producer.
The Constitutional Court said in a statement posted on its website that political parties eligible to run in the election must present their lists of candidates between May 31 and June 19.
Dos Santos, whose 32-year tenure makes him Africa’s longest-serving ruler after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has not yet disclosed whether he will lead the MPLA but is widely expected to do so.
He has said he is ready for any mission the party gives him.
Analysts say Dos Santos is likely to run to boost the MPLA’s chances to win the vote and to obtain legitimacy for his long period in power, during which he has never been elected president.
Dos Santos won the first round of a presidential election in 1992, but the run-off was abandoned after rebel group UNITA’s leader Jonas Savimbi refused to accept the result.
The MPLA won the civil war and then obtained 82 percent of the vote in a general election in 2008.
Dos Santos tightened his grip on power under a 2010 constitution that eliminated plans for a direct presidential vote and made the head of the winning parliamentary party president.
His administration has long been accused of clamping down on dissent and doing too little to fight graft and poverty.
The 69-year-old president has kept analysts, investors and oil companies watching one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies guessing about his political plans.
Observers say they will be watching closely for who Dos Santos selects as No.2 in the MPLA’s candidate list as it could signal his choice for a successor to whom he may hand over power, possibly a year or two after the election.
They say Manuel Vicente, who Dos Santos moved from the helm of state oil firm Sonangol to a senior ministerial post earlier this year, is seen as favourite for the spot.