After its transition from Popular Republic to Multiparty democracy in 1991, and according to the constitution adopted in 1992, Angola held in 1992 elections on national level, designed to choose a head of state – the president – and a legislature. The president was to be elected by the people for a five-year term (at most twice), by absolute majority – and if no candidate reached absolute majority, there had to be a second turn, with only the two most voted candidates running. The National Assembly (Assembleia Nacional) had 220 members, elected for a four-year term, 130 members by proportional representation and 90 members in provincial districts.
The parliamentary elections of 1992 gave the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) the absolute majority, while this goal was narrowly missed in the presidential elections. As National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rejected the election results, alleging fraud, the Civil War in Angola – which had begun in 1975, but had stopped in 1991 – resumed immediately. As a consequence, the second turn of the presidential elections never took place, and José Eduardo dos Santos simply held on to the office of President, for which he had been named under the conditions of the Popular Republic, in 1979. The National Assembly began to function, with the active participation of the MPs elected by UNITA and National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) – even though these movements/parties were at the same time waging a war against the MPLA. The parliamentary elections scheduled for 1997, according to the constitution, were delayed several times. After the civil war had come to an end in 2002, they were finally conducted in September 2008, while Presidential elections were to be held at a later date. In the legislative elections, the MPLA obtained an overwhelming majority which allowed it to adopt a new constitution early in 2010, maintaining the rules for parliamentary elections, but stipulating that heretofore the president is no longer elected by the people, but that the head candidate of the party that obtained the highest number of votes in the parliamentary elections becomes automatically President of the Republic. In 2012 General Elections were held according to this model, giving the MPLA again a majority of more than two thirds, thus confirming José Eduardo dos Santos as President.
Angola has at this stage (2012) to be classified as a one party dominant state. It is true that the "socialist" One-party state established at independence in 1975 was abandoned in 1991, and that the constitution adopted that year made all necessary provisions for a Multiparty democracy. In fact, well over 120 political parties presented themselves at the 1992 parliamentary elections, but the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola - Party of Labour (MPLA), which had been in power since independence, won the absolute majority. Moreover, its president (and then incumbent state president), José Eduardo dos Santos, obtained a relative majority in the simultaneous presidential election; although the constitution required a second turn in this case, this turn was never held because of the civil war, so that José Eduardo dos Santos stayed on in office. President and MPLA held on to their dominant role; however, shaken by a number of setbacks in the civil war, they agreed in 1998 to the formation of a Government of unity and national reconciliation (Governo de Unidade e Reconciliação Nacional, GURN), with the participation of ministers from the FNLA and UNITA. This seemed to open the way to an effective multiparty democracy. However, in the 2008 parliamentary elections the MPLA won 82% of the votes, with UNITA winning 10%, and the FNLA being reduced to 1%. The elections were characterized by several irregularities and can be described as only partly free but certainly not fair; nevertheless, their results were accepted by the opposition parties. On this basis, the MPLA imposed the adoption of a new constitution which not only changed the rules for the election of the state president (see above), but concentrated the main powers in the president and through a number of dispositions abolished the basic democratic principle of a division of powers. The General Elections of 2012 overall confirmed this constellation, although the opposition parties recovered some ground. Angola is thus at this stage entrenched in a dominant-party system which is very strongly presidentialist and does not fully obey to the fundamental tenets of democracy.
The General Elections of 2012 took place on 31 August. They were in substance legislative elections, but as – according to the 2010 constitution – the head candidate of the majority party would automatically become President of the Republic, and number 2 of the list Vice-President, it was also an indirect presidential election: hence the term "General Elections.
As José Eduardo dos Santos was the head candidate of the MPLA, he was thus confirmed as President. Manuel Domingos Vicente became Vice-President. A salient feature of these elections was the high abstention rate of 37,23%. Together with the invalid/blank votes, it means that more than 40% did not want to express support for any party. This attitude expressed above all a rejection of the MPLA as the dominant party: less than 30% of the registered voters came in fact out in favour of the MPLA whose victory was thus anything but overwhelming.