João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, president of the Republic of Angola, pictured speaking at the United Nations, faces a tough re-election test against challenger Adalberto Costa Junior. Pool photo by Timothy A. Clary/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Angola's ruling party could find itself out of power for the first time in nearly five decades as vote counting begins in one of the country's closest elections since a civil war two decades ago.
The election is a two-horse race between the incumbent Joao Lourenco, head of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, and Adalberto Costa Junior, the leader of the National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola.
"Voting has ended," Lucas Quilundo, a spokesman for the national electoral commission, said Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. "We're currently in the process of counting the votes."
Quilundo added that that the electoral agency was unable to provide details about voter turnout and he declined to provide a date for the announcement of the results.
The MPLA has been in power for nearly 50 years and won 61% of the vote in the last election in 2017. However, a May opinion poll showed MPLA leading this year's election by just seven points.
Angola's government has historically been considered close to Russia, with the country's diamond mines being an attractive resource for Moscow.
Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at Chatham House, however, told CNBC that China's influence is much deeper.
Vines added that while the MPLA is likely to win the election once again, the question is whether or not they will retain an absolute majority.
"This is key as under Angolan law, as laws can be challenged by the opposition if the majority is under 60 percent," Vines told CNBC.