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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 14:49 GMT
Q&A: Mozambique votes
Guebuza poster
Mr Guebuza is expected to win

Mozambicans go to the polls on 1 and 2 December to replace veteran President Joaquim Chissano, who is stepping down after 18 years in power.

They will also vote for a new parliament in the country's third multi-party election since independence.

Under the constitution, Mozambique elects its president and parliament every five years. The president can serve a total of three terms.

Who are the favourites?

Of the five presidential candidates the frontrunner is Armando Guebuza, secretary-general of the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo). He is the party's appointed successor to President Chissano and a veteran of the country's war of independence. He has served as interior minister and deputy defence minister.

His closest challenger is Afonso Dhlakama, who has headed the former rebel group Renamo (Mozambique National Resistance) since the end of the 1970s. He waged a guerrilla war against the Frelimo government throughout the 1980s, before converting the group to a political movement and agreeing, in 1992, to a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire with the government.

Mr Dhlakama was runner-up in the previous two elections. In 1994, Mr Chissano won about 53% to Mr Dhlakama's 34%. In 1999, they won about 52% and 48% respectively.

Who else is standing?

The other three candidates, who are not thought likely to affect the outcome, are:

  • Raul Domingos, chairman of the Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD). Formerly Renamo's secretary-general and second-in-command, Mr Domingos was expelled from the party in 2000 for alleged links to Frelimo. He formed the PDD in October 2003.

  • Yaqub Sibindy, another former Renamo rebel. He heads the Independent Party of Mozambique (Pimo), allied to the country's small Muslim community. He was also expelled from Renamo in 2000.

  • Carlos Reis, candidate for the Front for Change and Good Governance (FMGB) coalition. It consists of his own party, the Mozambique National Union (Unamo), and the Party of All Mozambican Nationalists (Partonamo).

What is the system?

The winner is the candidate who polls the most votes in the single round of voting.

Each candidate must be proposed by at least 5,000 voters, with at least 200 residing in each of the country's provinces.

How does voting for parliament work?

The National Assembly comprises 250 MPs representing 11 constituencies: Maputo City and the country's 10 provinces.

Voting is by proportional representation. Each party or bloc of parties presents a list of candidates. Voters then chose the party or coalition with their preferred candidates.

Each party or coalition must poll at least 5% of the vote to gain seats. Beyond that threshold, seats are allocated to parties in proportion to the total of votes polled.

The National Electoral Commission (CNE) guarantees that the registration and election process is free and fair. It allocates time on radio and television between different candidates and announces the final result.

There is also a Constitutional Court, which is the final arbiter in any dispute. There is no appeal against a decision by the court.

What are the parties?

A total of 21 parties are contesting seats. The three main ones are:

  • Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo). Frelimo led the country to independence in 1975, after waging a military campaign against the Portuguese colonial regime. After independence, the Frelimo government implemented a one-party state until 1990, when it revised the constitution, paving the way for the first multi-party elections in 1994. Frelimo won 133 of the 250 parliament seats in the 1999 election.

    Joaquim Chissano
    Veteran President Chissano is stepping down after 18 years
  • Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo). The former guerrilla movement won the remaining 117 parliamentary seats last time. It has accused Frelimo of planning widespread fraud.

  • Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD). PDD leader and former Renamo front man Raul Domingos has said he hopes the party will become a credible third force in Mozambican politics. The party is likely to split the Renamo vote. It also has the backing of civil activists disillusioned with Frelimo.

    Who can vote?

    Anyone over the age of 18. About 8m voters are eligible this time. In 1999, just over 68% of some 7m registered voters took part.

    What are the issues?

    Poverty: Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. A government report in 2004 noted that nearly 70% of Mozambique's 17m population lived below the poverty line, subsisting on less than 40 cents a day.

    The government has a long-term plan to reduce poverty through labour-intensive economic growth and has established a "poverty observatory" to monitor its plan. It says it will target rural areas, where 90% of poor Mozambicans live.

    HIV/Aids: The HIV/Aids epidemic is a major threat to Mozambique, where 13% of adults have the virus. In 2002, it was estimated that 1.9m people were living with HIV in Mozambique and that 830,000 of these were under the age of 24.

    Corruption and crime: Corruption is regarded as widespread in government, politics, the judiciary and business. Poor regulatory practice also means the banking sector is vulnerable to money laundering. Mozambique is known to be a major southern African transit point for South Asian hashish, heroin and South American cocaine, probably destined for European and South African markets.

    Who will monitor the poll?

    A total of 222 foreign observers, including former US President Jimmy Carter, are expected. However, election officials have turned down requests from EU observers to have full access to a centre where votes are to be counted.

    They will only be allowed to monitor the vote count through computers in a separate room. Observers said the last elections were free and fair.

    BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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