Analysis


President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has governed the southwestern African nation since 1979, announced last week that Angolans would go to the polls on Sept. 5 in the first national elections in 16 years.

Dos Santos' Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party faces a fragmented and poorly funded opposition as it seeks to extend its rule, unbroken since independence from Portugal in 1975.

It also enjoys a stranglehold over the media and access to the government's stuffed coffers to run its campaign.

"The MPLA holds all the power in Angola, and I don't see how the upcoming elections can change much," said Justino Pinto de Andrade, a political analyst at Catholic University in Angola's capital, Luanda.

MPLA candidates and officials will stress the government's stewardship of the economy when they fan out across the country to campaign among an estimated 8 million registered voters.

Angola's economy has been growing in double digits since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002 -- GDP jumped by more than 24 percent in

2007 and some analysts expect it to grow by 30 percent this year as oil hovers at around $ 140 a barrel.

Oil production has soared to 2 million barrels per day from about half that amount in 2005, putting it within striking distance of supplanting Nigeria as sub-Saharan Africa's largest petroleum producer.

The boom paved the way for Angola to join OPEC in 2007 and has enabled the government to begin rebuilding ports, railways and other infrastructure that was destroyed or fell into disrepair during the war.

Luanda has been turned into a giant construction site, its skyline dotted with construction cranes marking the locations of new shopping centres, skyscrapers and luxury hotels. Its port is clogged with ships from around the world.

"The thing about this country is that the reconstruction has just began, and there is still a lot of work to be done," said Emidio Pinheiro, head of the leading private bank BFA.

Chinese firms have extended an estimated $ 9 billion in credit and oil-backed loans to Angola. …

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