Mozambicans elections: Is Frelimo facing a strong challenge from Renamo?

By Drum Digital
15 October 2014

Mozambicans voted on Wednesday in elections, with the ruling party, Frelimo, facing a strong challenge from its main opponents, Renamo, and from a smaller party.

More than 10 million people were eligible to vote for the president, parliament and provincial assemblies.

Long queues formed at many polling stations, raising speculation that the turnout would be higher than the 44 per cent achieved in 2009.

The elections pitted the former independence movement Frelimo, which has governed Mozambique since independence from Portugal in 1975, against Renamo, a former anti-communist movement which waged a 16-year civil war against the initially Marxist Frelimo.

A 1993 peace deal turned Renamo into the biggest opposition party.

In 2012, its leader Afonso Dhlakama launched a low-level insurgency, accusing Frelimo of excluding the opposition from economic power.

A peace deal signed in August allowed Dhlakama, 61, to come out of his hideout in the central Gorongosa mountains to run for president.

He is facing Frelimo candidate Filipe Nyusi, 55. The current defence minister wants to succeed outgoing President Armando Guebuza, who can not run again after completing two terms.

The third candidate for president is Daviz Simango, 50, whose five-year-old party the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) has been gaining support, especially among young voters.

Nearly 30 parties were seeking seats in parliament and in provincial assemblies.

Election commission chairman Abdul Carimo said the voting was going smoothly and that there were only "minor" problems, such as polling stations opening late, delays in distributing materials to them and failures to issue credentials to election observers.

Frelimo was widely expected to win, though analysts said it could lose votes over allegations of corruption and illicit enrichment.

Poverty remains widespread in Mozambique, despite the economy growing at a rate of about 7 per cent as offshore gas finds are fuelling an investment boom.

"For sure we shall win. I believe we've done a very good job," Nyusi told journalists.

There was concern that if Renamo suffers heavy losses it could relaunch its guerrilla campaign.

Dhlakama, who is seeking the presidency for the fifth time, alleged that all the previous elections had been fraudulent.

The Renamo candidate declined to say if he would now respect the election result.

"What we want is for the process to be transparent," he said after casting his vote.

Dhlakama appealed for "non-violence during the voting, because emotions are running high, particularly among young people."

Changes in electoral law guaranteeing the three main parties representation at the electoral commission were expected to increase transparency.

The elections were monitored by observers from the European Union, the Southern African Development Community and the African Union.

Indications of the outcome were expected from midnight, though official results were only due within 15 days.

-SAPA

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