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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 18:28 GMT
Mozambicans stick to civil war loyalties
Justin Pearce
BBC, Maputo

Twelve years after the end of the civil war, Mozambicans will bid farewell to wartime leader Joaquim Chissano in presidential and parliamentary elections on 1 and 2 December.

Frelimo supporters in Maputo
The Frelimo party remains overwhelmingly popular in the south
While some new parties have a chance to get into parliament for the first time, the vote is going to be dominated by the two civil war adversaries: the governing Frelimo party and the former rebel movement, Renamo.

President Chissano is standing down in compliance with a limit of two consecutive terms that the post-war constitution puts on the presidency.

Frelimo's candidate is Armando Guebuza, who led Frelimo's negotiating team during the Rome peace talks that ended the war.

Veteran Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama is making his third electoral bid for the presidency.

Of the other three presidential candidates, the one considered to have the best chance is Raul Domingos, the former Renamo secretary general who is running for the presidency under the banner of his new Peace, Democracy and Development Party (PDD).

Corruption and employment

Perhaps surprisingly for a party that has been in power since 1975, Frelimo's campaign slogan is: "The force for change". It is emphasising the progress of recent years, and pledges to continue on the same path.

Frelimo remains overwhelmingly popular in the south of the country, which is the region that has seen the most benefit from post-war investment. Even though most people in the south remain poor, mistrust of Renamo will ensure Frelimo an easy victory in this region.


Tackling corruption has been high on most parties' campaign agenda, with the recent fourth anniversary of the death of journalist Carlos Cardoso drawing particular attention to the issue.

Cardoso was gunned down in Maputo on 22 November 2000, while investigating the theft of millions of dollars during bank privatisations.

Many questions remain unanswered about his death and about the corruption that he was investigating, and Cardoso has become something of a hero among politically conscious Mozambicans.

For the poor, unemployment is still the first concern.

Rapid economic growth, which reached 12% per annum during the 1990s, has created many jobs, but, say the trade unions, not enough to compensate for the 140,000 jobs lost during the transition from socialism to capitalism in the early 1990s.

In the countryside, peasant farmers are most concerned about the value of their products, which has declined in real terms since the liberalisation of the market.

PDD supporter in Maputo, Mozambique
The PDD's Raul Domingos could do well in the central Zambezi valley
The largely agricultural centre-north region of the country was particularly badly hit by cutbacks in the cotton and cashew nut industries. It is here that Renamo has its best chance of winning votes, though wartime memories of the rebel movement remain bitter, and many voters feel that no party truly represents their interests.

Raul Domingos' Renamo background - plus the fact that he is considered a more charismatic figure than Mr Dhlakama - might allow PDD to take away some of the traditional Renamo vote.

His core support will be in his home area, the central Zambezi valley, and of the six smaller parties contesting the parliamentary poll, PDD is the most likely to break through the 5% barrier needed to send a representative to the national assembly.

Accusations

The campaign has been calmer than in recent years, though not without some violent incidents.

"Fewer than 10 people" have died and "fewer than 50" have been injured during the course of campaigning, according to Felipe Mandlate, spokesman for the National Electoral Commission.

Each of the main parties has accused the others of harassment and/or intimidation, but election monitors, both Mozambican and foreign, say they cannot see any systematic pattern of abuse.

The main point of contention between the monitors and the National Elections Commission (CNE), which manages the poll, has been the question of access to the counting process.

Renamo supporters on Mozambique Island
Renamo supporters are backing veteran leader Afonso Dhlakama
Mozambique's vote tallying system has been praised as transparent - up to a point. Representatives of political parties, local NGOs and foreign observer missions are allowed to scrutinise every stage of the counting process to the delivery of the local results to the provincial counting centres.

The observers are still worried that there may be potential for manipulation in the tallying that is done at provincial and national level, and when the CNE makes its judgement on those ballot papers where the mark made by the voter is ambiguous, and on the individual polling station results sheets which might contain mathematical errors.

In the 1999 election, the CNE excluded nearly 7% of polling stations from the presidential count, and reconsidered 500,000 doubtful ballot papers.

Monitors fear that in the event of a close poll, arbitration on this scale by the Frelimo-dominated CNE could affect the final result.

Former US President Jimmy Carter and former Benin President Nicefore Soglo are leading a delegation of observers from the Atlanta-based Carter Center, and the European Union - which contributed 13 million euros ($17m) to election funds - also has a high-profile delegation in the country.

A coalition called the Electoral Observatory will co-ordinate monitoring by Mozambican civil society groups, and intends to carry out a parallel vote count at 791 of the 13,000 voting stations.


SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Mozambique votes
29 Nov 04 |  Africa
Reaping profits from hard ground
18 Nov 04 |  Business
Timeline: Mozambique
11 Nov 04 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Mozambique
09 Nov 04 |  Country profiles


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