Guebuza tipped to win vote
Maputo - President Armando Guebuza was among the first voters on Wednesday in elections that are expected to return him and his party to power despite questions about their commitment to democracy in this southeastern African nation.
Guebuza, casting his ballot at a Maputo school about an hour after polls opened at 06:00, joked that his choice was secret.
"I am confident that my party and my candidate will win," he said.
Guebuza's Frelimo party has been in power since independence from Portugal in 1975 and has won every vote since Mozambique's first multiparty election in 1994. Another presidential candidate, Daviz Simango, has accused Frelimo of using the elections commission to squash Simango's new rival party.
Simango was allowed on the presidential ballot, but his nine-month-old Mozambique Democratic Party was excluded from most of the parliamentary races also being contested Wednesday.
The elections commission said there were problems with the party's filing papers. Its officials say democracy is not threatened and that they were not taking orders from Frelimo.
Simango appealed but Mozambique's Constitutional Council, which has the final word on electoral disputes, sided with the election commission.
Simango continues to deny his documents were flawed and was expected to vote later in the central city of Beira, where he is mayor.
Main opposition candidate Afonso Dhlakama of Renamo, a rebel movement turned political party, voted early in Maputo.
In the December 2004 presidential elections, Guebuza won nearly 64% of the vote to Dhlakama's 32%. Dhlakama, 56, has said he won't seek the presidency again if he's defeated this time.
"The Mozambican people need a total revolution," Dhlakama said. "Things must change. And I hope this time things will really change."
Dhlakama said he was "very happy" that voting and campaigning were peaceful, but complained about the strength of Frelimo, which had the money to move its candidates on the campaign trail by helicopter.
Post- conflict reconstruction
After winning independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique fell into a devastating war between Frelimo, which was then a Marxist guerrilla group, and Renamo, which was backed by neighbouring South Africa's apartheid government. Frelimo is a Portuguese acronym for the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique while Renamo is an acronym for Mozambique National Resistance.
Since a UN-brokered peace accord ended the war, Mozambique has been admired for its political stability, economic recovery and post-conflict reconstruction.
Free-market reforms instituted by the once-Marxist Frelimo have delivered growth rates as high as 10 percent per year, making it the world's fastest-growing economy at one point, even though much of the country still lives in poverty.
GDP grew by 7% in the first six months of 2009 but the effects of the global financial crisis are starting to show. Mozambican exports fell from $543m in 2008 to $348m this year. Officials said a collapse in the price of aluminium is to blame.
Nineteen parties are taking part in Wednesday's presidential, parliamentary and provincial assemblies elections. Results are expected on November 1.