21st Century Man
In October 2014, millions of Mozambicans exercised their right to vote in national elections. Citizens demonstrated their support of the FRELIMO party and its decades of rule by voting for the party’s candidate Filipe Nyusi. His predecessor, Armando Guebuza, was restricted from running for a third term, in accordance with the constitution. The country’s new leader has promised reform of the agricultural sector and continued efforts to lift the population out of poverty, and is set to uphold the social-democratic policies and preserve the identity of a party that has existed since the foundation of the state. In spite of a violent campaign of hostilities perpetrated by the opposition in 2013, the democratic process was vindicated by these elections, with Afonso Dhlakama’s rival RENAMO party winning a sizeable minority of votes following an August 2014 truce.
Modern Mozambican politics are shaped by the country’s extended civil war, which ended in 1992. The descent into civil conflict began in 1977, as differences among politicians in the newly independent state reached untenable levels. In 1975, Portugal entered a new era with the fall of António de Oliveira Salazar and Marcelo Caetano’s Estado Novo regime, and withdrew from its colonial wars in Africa. The Mozambique Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique—FRELIMO) emerged as the principal power in the nation, and instituted widespread agricultural collectivization in rural areas, alienating some farmers and laying the foundations for increasing dissent among the populace. The regimes of neighboring Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa poured money into fomenting open rebellion, resulting in the formation of the opposing Mozambican National Resistance (Resistíªncia Nacional Moçambicana—RENAMO) group. An increasingly authoritarian response by the FRELIMO government, at the time the only legal party in the state, exacerbated tensions, and the country became locked into a dynamic of internal conflict and international intrigue for a further 16 years. Peace was achieved at the Rome General Peace Accords, which resulted in part from the country’s moves toward economic liberalization and the decline of South Africa’s apartheid regime. Nevertheless, the aftermath of the war continues to affect elections and influence public life.
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
Since the promulgation of its 1990 constitution, Mozambique has impressed international observers as a multi-party presidential representative democratic republic. The 1994 election brought Joaquim Chissano, already president since the celebrated Samora Machel died in 1986, to power officially in the nation’s first democratic government. A 129-seat FRELIMO majority controlled the Assembly of the Republic, which comprises 250 seats. The lion’s share of the remaining seats was held by RENAMO, with a much smaller number won by the Democratic Union. This era was defined by the government’s concerted efforts to have the country’s debt forgiven, and by a comprehensive liberalization program, both developments helping to lay the groundwork for the improved international reputation that Mozambique enjoys today.
Members of the unicameral Assembly of the Republic (Assembléia da República de Moçambique), based in Maputo, are elected to five-year terms by means of proportional representation. The legislature is also formed by the executive branch of the government, led by the president, who serves as head of state, government, and commander of the armed forces. In addition, the president selects the prime minister and the Council of Ministers. The country is divided into 10 internal provinces including Maputo, the largest being Cabo Delgado and the most populous, Nampula, and these are each subdivided into 52 districts and 894 postos.
Chissano’s leadership of the country ended after his second term in 2004, when Armando Guebuza was elected to the presidency. His rule, renewed in 2009, was effective in further raising the status of the country at an international level. During this time, significant foreign investment was drawn to Mozambique as a result of rigorous efforts to reduce corruption and enhance the business environment. These initiatives coincided with a broader improvement of accountability and transparency in politics and for the population at large, enshrined in a new constitution promulgated at the start of 2005. This revised document mandated the creation of a Council of State, consisting of the prime minister and representatives of opposing views and social groups, which would serve as an advisory body to the presidency. A Constitutional Council was also formed to safeguard the paramount importance of the constitution, while an ombudsman’s office was established to protect the rights of citizens.
AND INTO THE LIGHT
The solid foundations of Mozambique’s democracy have withstood the animosity leftover from the civil war. Despite low turnouts at the 2004 and 2009 elections, of approximately 34% and 44% respectively, the two major parties have continued to engage in the electoral process. Aside from Afonso Dhlakama’s RENAMO, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), led by Daviz Simango, stands as the only other significant political party. FRELIMO won the majority of seats with 144 out of the total of 250, followed by RENAMO with 89, while the MDM acquired 17. Through the two-round system, Filipe Nyusi was elected as the new president of the country. However, as with previous elections, veteran RENAMO leader Dhlakama declared the group’s dissatisfaction with the process, citing the number of irregularities as unacceptable and ultimately boycotting the swearing in ceremony of January 2015. However, the opposition had already expressed similar misgivings about previous general elections, and their statements remain uncorroborated by international observers, including the European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), that have generally labeled elections as representative and fair.
AT ELECTION TIME
The Commonwealth is another organization that has lauded the democratic process in Mozambique. As the body’s only member that was not a former British colony, the country joined due to the strong economic bonds its shares with its neighbors, all of which were already members. The organization praised the relatively calm and peaceful nature of the proceedings and respect for the rights of voters and political parties. Now entering its 20th year as part of the group, Mozambique retains its membership of other organizations also, allowing it broad scope for diplomatic dealings. It is part of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the UN, and the World Trade Organization, among others. Mozambique maintains strong relations with China, Russia, and the US, as well as with Scandinavian nations such as Denmark and Finland, which has offered support for the nation since its independence in 1975. Naturally, diplomatic engagement with Portugal remains significant.
With the election of President Nyusi, Mozambique is moving into a new era. With a new term and a new leader, the country is in a position to continue building its democratic structures and further develop processes for ensuring transparency and accountability in both politics and civil society. Any attempts by the new administration to continue improving relations between the major political rivals in the country will be in line with the post-civil war policy of successive FRELIMO governments, a policy that has evidently been a success.