Joad Jose Santarita
Displayed with permission from Voice of America

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has led the oil-rich nation for 37 years, will not stand for re-election in next year’s polls.

State radio said Friday that the ruling MPLA party has decided that the minister of defense, Joao Lourenço, will be the party´s presidential candidate in the 2017 elections, scheduled for August.

A source in the MPLA Central Committee confirmed to VOA’s Portuguese to Africa Service that Lourenço, not dos Santos, will be the party´s candidate.

Dos Santos, 74, has led Angola since 1979 and is the second longest-serving ruler in Africa, behind only Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea.

The president has previously said he will leave national politics in 2018, but this is the most tangible evidence to date that he will follow through with that plan. Opposition to his rule has grown as the Angolan economy struggles amid the prolonged slump in global oil prices.

A communique issued after the MPLA meeting said only that the party’s central committee had approved “an internal resolution on the head of the list of candidates for the general elections of 2017. » However, state radio said Lourenço will top that list, with Minister of Internal Affairs Bornito de Sousa named the candidate for vice president.

Under the Angolan electoral system, parties submit a list of candidate to parliament. The head of that list becomes the president if the party wins the elections.

João Lourenço was appointed vice president of the MPLA in August. He was born in 1954 in Benguela and received military training in the Soviet Union between 1978 and 1982.

He is a longtime member of the ruling party and speaks Portuguese, English, Russian and Spanish.

Between 1998 and 2003, he was the party´s secretary general and in 2014 became vice president of the National Assembly.