Mozambicans vote in tough test for Frelimo

2014-10-15 16:42
Afonso Dhlakama, Renamo. (Beeld)

Afonso Dhlakama, Renamo. (Beeld)

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Maputo - Mozambicans voted on Wednesday in a tough electoral test for the ruling Frelimo party, which has run the southern African country since independence from Portugal in 1975.

Frelimo is facing growing discontent over a wealth gap that persists despite huge mineral resources, with fast economic growth sidestepping the bulk of a population that is among the world's poorest.

"I want change. I want to see development. We need jobs and new schools," said first-time voter Otavio do Santos, who cast his ballot at a makeshift polling station in the low-income neighbourhood of Xipamanine in the capital, Maputo.

His sentiments were echoed by young people at other polling stations. But despite poverty and unemployment, many said they were sticking with the ruling party.

"Maybe they [Frelimo] won't change anything for us... but I am from this party, you can't change your mother can you?" Amelia Makave told AFP at Xipamanine.

Incumbent President Armando Guebuza, from Frelimo, is prohibited by the constitution from running for a third term.

So the presidential race pits Frelimo's Filipe Nyusi, 55, the former defence minister, against the veteran leader of former rebel group Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, 61, and Daviz Simango, 50, founder of the Mozambique Democratic Party (MDM).

"I am convinced of a victory," Nyusi told reporters after casting his ballot. "We have worked for a long time, very hard to prepare for this election."

Dhlakama, who voted at the same polling station, has cried foul each time he lost in previous elections. But expressed hope that this vote would be free and fair.

Proper results

"Results will be accepted when they are clean. As you know on the African continent, results are often not clean," he said.

"We hope for the first time in Mozambique results will be acceptable, proper and with credibility. I believe this."

The government amended election laws earlier this year as part of peace negotiations with Renamo, which demanded that the opposition be given greater control over the electoral process in bid to improve transparency.

But opposition parties complained that their accredited agents were not being let in to observe the polls in many parts of the country.

"There is a systematic prohibition of our representatives to observe this process," MDM spokesperson Sande Carmona told AFP, claiming abuses "all over the country".

The third presidential aspirant, Simango, voted in the second biggest city Beira, where he is mayor.

Voter surveys cannot be published in Mozambique, but judging from the turnout at some campaign rallies, Frelimo could be in for a shock.

The party's glitzy final rally in its southern fiefdom of Maputo failed to attract a capacity crowd.

'Opportunity for Renamo'

Twenty-seven parties and coalitions are competing for the favour of 10.9 million registered voters in the presidential race, plus polls for national and provincial assemblies.

Analysts say that while Frelimo is expected to win the election, the opposition is likely to make significant inroads, reducing the ruling party's overwhelming majority of 75% garnered in the last vote.

Renamo, which has lost all elections since the end of the country's 16-year civil war in 1992, has made a comeback, trying to spruce up its image after emerging from a low-level insurgency waged in the centre of the country just weeks ahead of the election.

"The recent [ 5 September ] peace agreement is an opportunity for Renamo," said Nelson Alusala, a researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies.

"Mozambicans may be attracted to Renamo for the simple reason of wanting change," he said.

At the same time the fledgling MDM, led by the mayor of the second largest city of Beira, is gaining popularity.

Formed five years ago, the MDM gained around 40% of the vote in Maputo in municipal elections last December.

If none of the three garners more than 50% of Wednesday's vote, a run-off will be held within 30 days after official final results which are expected in two weeks.

Read more on:    mdm  |  frelimo  |  renamo  |  afonso dhlakama  |  mozambique  |  southern africa

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