José Eduardo dos Santos: The president maintains a firm hold on power and favors foreign participation in the economy, but he has shown reluctance to pursue the fiscal reforms required to support long-term economic stability. The overwhelming victory of his MPLA in legislative elections held in September 2012 secured him a five-year term, and he is eligible to stand for re-election in 2017, when he will be 75. He will eventually need to groom a successor, a process that will almost certainly generate tensions within the governing party. However, his failure to act on that front creates a risk of a leadership crisis in the event of his unexpected death or incapacitation, a possibility that represents the biggest threat to political stability over the medium term.

Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola: The ruling MPLA once again confirmed its status as the dominant political force at legislative elections held in September 2012, winning slightly less than 80% of the seats in the National Assembly. Most senior party figures favor policies aimed at attracting foreign investment, but they are unlikely to take the steps necessary to address the corruption and bureaucracy that deter investment in non-extractive industries.

National Union for the Total Independence of Angola: The former rebel organization represents the chief opposition to the MPLA, but its influence has been significantly weakened as a result of its poor showing at the 2008 and 2012 legislative elections. Factional infighting will reinforce the party’s other electoral disadvantages, limiting its chances of gaining even a share of power in the foreseeable future.

Manuel Vicente: The former head of the state-owned oil company was appointed to the post of minister of state for economic coordination in January 2012, a move that seemed to confirm earlier media speculation that Vicente was being groomed as the president’s successor. His subsequent elevation to the second spot on the MPLA’s electoral list (effectively designating him as the party’s vice presidential candidate) means that at the very least he is the current front-runner to be anointed by dos Santos as his chosen heir. Vicente does enjoy a good rapport with foreign oil companies, and his inclusion in the president’s inner circle is a positive signal to Angola’s investment partners. However, his formal designation as dos Santos’ successor would probably not sit well with the battle-hardened old guard of the MPLA, who do not particularly trust the party’s younger technocrats.

Isaias Samakuva:Formerly UNITA’s envoy to Europe, Samakuva was elected as the party’s leader in June 2003, and won a vote of confidence in his leadership following UNITA’s defeat in the 2008 legislative elections. A political moderate who favors quiet diplomacy, Samakuva has rejected the aggressive approach of hard-liners within the party, a strategy that bodes well for UNITA’s continued participation in mainstream politics, but will do little to improve UNITA’s chances of unseating the MPLA.