Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Mozambique goes to polls on Wednesday with result on a knife-edge

As Mozambique prepares to go to the polls for Wednesday’s presidential election, the ruling party Frelimo faces its first real political challenge since the country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.President Armando Guebuza must step down after his maximum two terms in office, and the campaign mounted by Renamo – Frelimo long-standing political rival – has resulted in a race to succeed him that has become too tight to callIt has also been a race fraught with irregularities, which are being increasingly exposed by a small army of citizen journalists across the country.The election in 2013 was tight. Renamo boycotted it, MDM received 40% of the total vote, won two cities in the first round (Beira and Quelimane) and two after flawed counts and new elections (Nampula and Gurue). In Maputo and Matola, usually Frelimo strongholds, MDM won over 42% of the vote.However, 2014 is a different game: this year, Renamo is participating, which splits the opposition and could make results even more contested.

  • FRELIMO: Filipe Nyusi
A former defence minister, he is running on a "continuity ticket". His main campaign pledge is to mechanise the seriously underdeveloped agricultural sector, as well as redistribute wealth and tackle mass youth unemployment. 
The European Union is sending election observers, as is the US-based Carter Center, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union.More than 10.7 million people are registered to vote in the country's 11 provinces, as well as more than 89,500 Mozambicans in the diaspora.It is unlikely that the election will pass off without some violence, but it will above all be a test of the Frelimo-Renamo peace deal's durability and how the losing parties react.Frelimo candidate Filipe Nyusi - October 2014
Although relatively unknown and inexperienced, Mr Nyusi, 55, is in a strong position - despite observers saying that the conspicuous accumulation of wealth by the Frelimo elite under Mr Guebuza could damage the party. 
What situation is Mozambique in?
Despite its rapid economic growth and huge untapped resources of coal and natural gas, it is also one of the poorest countries. Most of the almost 25-million population is poor and lives in rural areas. A small elite, associated with Frelimo, dominates the economy.
RENAMO ,Afonso Dhlakama
Frelimo has dominated the country's politics since independence from Portugal in 1975 but the last-minute entry of its long-standing opponent Renamo makes the presidential vote too tight to call.Despite spending almost two years in hiding and performing poorly in the last election, the 61-year-old is arguably the best-known candidate and has been drawing crowds, promising to offer Frelimo some cabinet posts if elected and telling residents of coal-rich areas they will benefit from resources being extracted there.

  • MDM: Daviz Simango The 51-year-old mayor of Beira is standing for the Mozambique Democratic Movement, a party he formed in 2009 after breaking away from Renamo.

Artist and businessman Virgilio Mpfumo, 34, is tight-lipped about who he will actually vote for. But his main wish is clear. “We have a lot of people without job, without work. So we need a special thing, we need government, we need change,” he said.
For market vendor Constantino Basilio Manhice, his fat stack of hard cash earned selling potatoes and onions - is all the proof he needs that Frelimo is on the right course. He says because the government has enabled the people to have more farming plots, they can grow more local products and don’t have to import food from South Africa. But not everyone is prospering. The largest trade union says unemployment stands around 23 percent. That’s a difficult number to pin down, since the nation’s economy still depends on subsistence farming and on informal labor. But that disheartening situation has prompted some Mozambicans to swear off Frelimo, which has handed the mantle of power from outgoing President Armando Guebuza to the relatively obscure Nyusi, who formerly served as defense minister.

A shop worker, who gave his name only as Alfonso, said he prefers the populist rhetoric of Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who has drawn huge crowds despite having hidden in the remote northern bush for many years.“Guebuza no, no, and I don’t know Nyusi," he said. "Dhlakama’s very good... No money, it’s a problem.” It’s a familiar refrain here: no money, many problems. Many Mozambicans agree that things have improved since the civil war ended. But many say that they vote now with their wallets in mind. There have been several clashes during campaigning between Frelimo and the MDM, with Mr Simango's motorcade being attacked in the south, an area regarded as a Frelimo stronghold.
There have also been skirmishes in Nampula in the north between Frelimo and Renamo supporters.

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