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Mozambique - Politics

National and municipal elections are held every 5 years. Voter participation in Mozambique tends to be low, with 2003 and 2004 turnout at 24 percent and 36 percent respectively. Voter turnout increased in the 2008 municipal elections to 46.4 percent of registered voters.

Mozambique is a developing country that has been steadily rebuilding its economy and civic institutions since the 16-year civil war ended in 1992. Violence along religious and ethnic boundaries is rare. Although occasionally ethnic and political preferences go hand-in-hand, the violence between these groups is usually politically-motivated and not along ethnic lines. The country stabilized following its first multi-party elections in October 1994.

The Mozambican Liberation Front fought a liberation war during 10 years (1964-1974) and after Portugal recognized the independence of Mozambique in 1975, FRELIMO installed itself as the sole legal political party in a Marxist-style state and, since then, has been running the country. However, a 16-year civil war (1977-1992) ensued setting the then Soviet Union-allied FRELIMO against RENAMO, backed at the time by the white-minority governments of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa. The war resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and displaced people.

The FRELIMO leader, military commander and eventual president of Mozambique, Samora Machel, who led the country since independence, died in a suspicious plane crash in 1986 and was replaced by Joaquim Chissano, a reform-minded and moderate within the party. A peace accord was signed in 1992 after the enactment of a new Constitution establishing a market-based economy and a multi-party political system.

The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) has been the ruling political party since independence in 1975, heavily influencing both policymaking and implementation. While civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces, there have been some instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently.

Elections are typically open, and international observers have deemed them free and fair. Opposition parties sometimes have objections and make accusations. There are some reports of opposition members being intimidated by police officers. The National Election Commission (CNE) is responsible for the oversight of elections, but it is a highly politicized body.

In 1994 the country held its first democratic elections. Joaquim Chissano was elected President with 53% of the vote, and a 250-member National Assembly was voted in with 129 Frelimo deputies, 112 Renamo deputies, and 9 representatives of three smaller parties that formed the Democratic Union (UD). By 1999, more than one-half (53%) of the legislation passed originated in the Assembly.

The second general elections were held in December 1999, with high voter turnout. The 1999 electoral process demonstrated a number of positive signs, including bipartisan consensus on a new electoral law, a successful registration exercise supported by both parties, and a generally satisfactory campaign period. International and domestic observers agreed that the voting process was well organized and went smoothly.

Unfortunately, technical problems and a lack of transparency in the final tabulation of results undermined the credibility of the process, fueling political suspicions and doubts about the final results, which showed incumbent President ]oaquim Chissano the winner with more than 52 percent of the vote. The opposition party, Renamo, rejected the results and filed a complaint with the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled against Renamo and validated the results.

Both the opposition and observers subsequently cited flaws in the tabulation process that, had they not occurred, might have changed the outcome. In the end, however, international and domestic observers concluded that the close result of the vote reflected the will of the people.

Shouting, chanting and banging on the tables characterized the start of the first session of the Mozambican parliament in February 2001, as opposition deputies first demanded a change in the agenda, then refused to vote on it. Although it seemed that this parliamentary sitting would be a tempestuous one, there was a remarkable degree of cooperation in parliament, especially in the standing and ad hoc commissions: some knotty problems were resolved in inter-party negotiations.

The Peace and Reconciliation agreement was signed on 5 September 2014 and included an amnesty law, a ceasefire and reintegration of RENAMO armed men into the armed forces and police. The demobilization and disarmament process was still underway at the writing of this report and some political analysts are skeptical about RENAMO’s will to disarm after its electoral performance. The advantage of the ruling FRELIMO Mozambican Liberation Front over its adversaries through the use of material and human resources of the state resulted in an uneven playing field. In addition, the nonimplementation, at the moment of the elections, of the disarming clause of the peace agreement between the National Resistance of Mozambique (RENAMO) and the government also bore an influence on the election campaign.

Mozambique has 13 constituencies (círculos eleitorais) composed by its 10 provinces, the capital city of Maputo and the diaspora in Africa and Rest of the World, and voters elected their representatives for the national and provincial legislatures and presidency through closed multimember lists and three different ballots, two showing up to 30 political parties (not all parties run in all provinces) and one with the three presidential candidates. Voters in Maputo and in the diaspora elected the president and members of the national assembly only.

The estimated 25 million inhabitants live mostly in the central provinces generally in poor conditions, with lack of basic infrastructure, especially in the rural zones. The capital, Maputo, is connected by paved roads and reliable communications to the main cities in the central and northern regions. The main cities are connected by air services offered by the national airline LAM (Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique), which is banned by the European Union. Safety in terms of accidents and health hazards, and not security, were the main concern.

FRELIMO’s win of past general elections showed an increase in its support from 53.3 percent of the votes in 1994 to 75 percent in 2009, but fell to 57.03 percent in 2014. RENAMO, though, which has been showing a descending trending since 1999, when it received 47.7 percent and down to 16.4 percent in 2009, recovered and obtained 36.61 percent of the votes with his presidential candidate winning in five of the eleven provinces (excluding the diaspora); such poor performance in the past was possibly due to a period of disbelief in the party and high abstention, and the rising of a third opposition force, MDM, which attracted in its first appearance 8.6 percent of the electorate but now went down to 6.36 percent. The election in 2014 would change the overall tendencies: FRELIMO would not sustain the same high levels of support, RENAMO would make a comeback and MDM could broad its support base if not in the presidential run at least in the National Assembly.

Inclusiveness in the electoral process allowed for more transparency in the decisions and deliberations of the election management bodies but was not enough, however, to dispel the distrust in an electoral history always perceived as fraudulent. The reflections of this distrust were seen in the failure to motivate the electorate to increase the participation rate, which hovered over the past election percentage at 48.64 percent. The enthusiastic turnout of the first election (87.87 percent) was replaced in the last few years by indifference and apathy; more than half of the registered voters (55.27 percent) ignored the 2009 and 2014 elections.

Mozambique's government and the ex-rebel group Renamo completed a long-awaited peace pact on 06 August 2019, inking a final deal aimed at ending years of conflict. President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade embraced after signing the landmark agreement at a ceremony in Maputo's Peace Square witnessed by former presidents and regional and continental leaders. The pact, named the Maputo Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, brought the curtain down on marathon negotiations initiated by Afonso Dhlakama, the historic leader of the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), who died in May 2019.

Following Mozambique’s largely peaceful elections in October 2019, there was a resurgence of violence in central Mozambique led by a Renamo splinter group known as the “Junta” despite the definitive ceasefire and peace agreement signed in August 2019. Renamo denies any connections to or support for the Junta. Until recently, the splinter group primarily targeted road transport along the major north-south and east-west highways that pass through Manica and Sofala provinces. However, in April 2020, the group attacked a logging camp killing one expatriate worker and wounding several others. The Junta leader does not recognize the leader of the Renamo party and stated that the attacks will continue until the government enters into direct negotiations with him.

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Page last modified: 26-04-2021 12:38:05 ZULU