LUANDA, Aug 19 (Reuters) - The presidential candidate of Angola’s ruling MPLA party, Joao Lourenco, closed his electoral campaign on Saturday, telling his supporters that no other party could guarantee the stability of the country.
The rally on the outskirts of the capital Luanda, attended by tens of thousands, was a show of strength for the MPLA, which is expected to win elections on Aug. 23 but could drop support in major cities, including the capital.
An economic crisis, caused by a fall in the price of oil, has increased discontent in Angola and created an opportunity for opposition parties to increase their vote.
“The people will vote for the MPLA because they know that only the MPLA can guarantee the continuity of peace in Angola, of freedom in Angola, of democracy in Angola,” Lourenço said, referring indirectly to the country’s devastating civil war which raged from 1975 to 2002.
In a 40-minute speech he stressed the need to diversify Angola’s economy, which has been hit by lower crude revenue, and invest more in education and health. He pledged to improve infrastructure, including sanitation and rubbish collection, in Luanda.
The event was also attended by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been largely absent throughout the campaign. Dos Santos, who has ruled Angola for 38 years, will continue to exert influence after stepping down from the presidency, as head of the party.
“I have no doubt the MPLA will win this election,” Dos Santos said in a short address.
Angola’s main opposition UNITA has said it would be willing to form a coalition government with other opposition parties if the MPLA lost power.
Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Andrew Bolton