People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party
Published 18th July, 2012
The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola or MPLA was founded in December 1958 as a merger between the Angolan Communist Party and the Party of the United Struggle for Africans in Angola under the leadership of Mário de Andrade and from 1962 Agostinho Neto. Until 1991 the party had a Marxist-Leninist ideology, but after that period described itself as Social Democratic and as such centre-left.
In 1974 Angola secured its independence from Portugal and the three main parties formed a coalition. This didn’t last long and in 1975 the MPLA declared the People’s Republic of Angola and went on to secure most of the country with Cuban assistance. The other two main parties entered into a civil war with the MPLA government which, with a few breaks lasted until 2002.
Upon independence Agostinho Neto was declared president and he continued to rule through the civil war until he died of cancer in 1979 and was succeeded by José Eduardo dos Santos in 1979. Throughout the period to 1991 the MPLA was supported financially by the Soviet Union and financially and in armed forces by the Cubans whilst their opponents were backed by the United States, South Africa and the West.
The MPLA was riven by divisions during the period up to 1991 and several internal coups were attempted, the most notorious of which was by Nito Alves in 1977 resulting in a purge which killed thousands both inside and out of the party.
When José Eduardo dos Santos took the leadership in 1979 he attempted a more conciliatory line towards the other two parties, UNITA and the FNLA which resulted in the the Bicesse Accords and ultimately multi-party election in 1992.
The 1992 presidential election saw José Eduardo dos Santos elected with 49.57% of the vote. This was to be the only democratic election he undertook and remains the president of Angola to the present day. The MPLA did well in the National Assembly elections and took 129 of the 220 seats in the parliament. The opposition Jonas Savimbi of UNITA took 40.7% of the vote in the presidential election contested the results and the war was resumed.
In 1999 the MPLA armed wing, the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) carried out an offensive against UNITA and in 2002 the war was over when Jonas Savimbi and other senior UNITA commanders were killed.
Fresh elections were not held until 2008 and these were only for the National Assembly. The MPLA, by now the dominant force across the country, took 191 of the 220 seats in the parliament.
Although José Eduardo dos Santos has submitted himself to internal party elections he has not fought a democratic nationwide election since 1992. This is likely to continue because in 2010 a new constitution was introduced which means that the president of the country will be elected by the parliament and that he will be the leader of the largest party in the parliament.
The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola is a member of Socialist International.