Beginning with CAR's independence, Patassé has been involved in the government. Under Bokassa he held a number of government ministerial posts, including Transportation, and Development and Tourism (1969–70); Agriculture, and Environmental Resources (1970); Transportation and Commerce (1970–72); Rural Development (1972–73); Health (1973–74); Environmental Resources and Tourism (1974–76). Since 1980, Patassé and the MPLC have comprised the most consistent and, in some measure, the most effective opposition to both the Dacko and Kolingba governments of the 1980s and early 1990s. This was accomplished despite the fact that Patassé spent a large portion of the 1980s in hiding in his own country or in exile in France, Chad, or Libya. Although he was able to maintain an active core of support, his absence from the country and his former association with the Bokassa regime hindered the development of a large and consistent base of support within the country. His most consistent base of support had been among the peoples of the northwest and north-central portions of the country and among the young and unemployed of the major urban areas, particularly the capital of Bangui.
In the election held September 1999, 10 candidates were on the ballot for the office of president, including Ange-Felix Patassé and former presidents André Kolingba and David Dacko. Official results declared President Ange-Felix Patassé the winner although the other nine candidates charged that Patassé intimidated voters into supporting his candidacy. Patassé reportedly won 51.6% of the vote of the one million votes cast (out of 1.7 million registered voters), with Kolingba winning 19.3% and Dacko 11%.