, LUANDA, Oct 5 – Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has reshuffled his cabinet ahead of elections in 2012, replacing his influential state minister for economic coordination, state media said Tuesday.
Dos Santos, Angola\’s president for the past 30 years, also promoted an ex-general in former rebel movement Unita to the top post in the armed forces, reported state radio station RNA, citing a statement from the president\’s office.
Political analysts said the moves appear designed to boost the chances of Dos Santos\’ ruling MPLA against the Unita opposition in the 2012 elections.
The replacement of Manuel Nunes Junior, the state minister for economic coordination, may also be designed to groom him as Dos Santos\’ eventual successor, said Justino Pinto de Andrade, dean of economics at the Universidade Catolica.
"I think Nunes Junior is a figure to protect in terms of the eventual replacement of Jose Eduardo dos Santos," he told AFP.
"That\’s why the president wanted him to be less exposed."
With the reshuffle, Nunes Junior\’s post has been renamed "economy minister" and given to former central bank governor Abraao Pio dos Santos Gourgel, who is in turn replaced by Jose Massano of the African Development Bank.
Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda, the former Unita general, rises from second-in-command in the armed forces to take over the top post from Francisco Pereira Furtado.
"This is the first time that a general from Unita has become chief of the armed forces," Pinto de Andrade said.
"An ex-Unita figure could attract some former fighters\’ votes in the 2012 elections," Jake Jamba, a Unita member of parliament, told AFP.
Angola is still emerging from a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002, and tensions still run high between Unita and the MPLA, the party that has ruled since independence in 1975.
Angola in February ratified a new constitution under which parliamentary elections will be held in 2012, with the country\’s leader to be automatically chosen from the top of legislative poll lists.
Dos Santos, 68, could extend his grip on power for another decade under the new laws, which allow him to run for two more five-year terms.
The one-time Marxist has faced a presidential election just once, a 1992 poll that was cut short by renewed fighting.