Mozambique by-election test for Frelimo
Maputo - Mozambicans voted in by-elections in three northern cities on Wednesday in a test of ruling party Frelimo's popularity against a new opposition party.
About 300 000 voters were registered to vote for mayors in Cuamba, Pemba and Quelimane, where polls opened promptly at 07:00 (05:00 GMT), according to state television TVM.
Frelimo and new opposition party MDM (Democratic Movement of Mozambique) are the only contenders in two cities, with a third small party also standing in Pemba.
Main opposition party and formal rebel movement Renamo is boycotting the elections, claiming that no free and fair voting is possible under the Frelimo government.
The MDM was started by Renamo separatists and won 8.6% in 2009 presidential elections. The young party has proved a dynamic opposition compared to Renamo, whose support has been steadily declining.
Three Frelimo mayors left office suddenly earlier this year, sparking the first by-elections since the establishment of municipalities in 1998.
All cited personal reasons, though a newspaper leaked the names of mayors Frelimo wanted out.
Next year Mozambique celebrates the 20-year anniversary of the end of a civil war between Renamo and the then-marxist Frelimo government, which started two years after independence from Portugal in 1975.
The government allowed free elections and liberalised the market from 1992.
The by-elections results are expected on Thursday.