Chatham House (London)

Mozambique's Political Setback

(Page 2 of 2)

analysis

Mozambique will hold municipal elections in November. Renamo again has signalled that it will not participate and plans to 'stop the elections', which is the first time it has threatened to disrupt elections. Realistically Renamo can create a disturbance at polling stations but it does not have the power to stop the elections.

The elections will go ahead and Frelimo and the third parliamentary party, MDM, will be the main contenders. MDM will have a chance to consolidate its strength in two cities, Beira and Quelimane.

If it manages to hold power in these and add even one more municipality it will add to the growing perception that it is the successor to Renamo. This does not mean that Renamo will be politically irrelevant but it will need to resort to the ballot instead of ghettoised politics that are backed by force.

Finding a solution, or kicking the can down the road

Renamo may be awakening to the fact that their show of force cannot be sustained. It does not enjoy the same external support as it did during the civil war and its strategy only exacerbates the growing fatigue of the party inside and outside Mozambique. No one wants to see the country return to violence and there is little sense of any long-term Renamo vision.

Afonso Dhlakama believes that government fraud defeated his presidential victory in 1999, but he has run his party for thirty three years and over the last decade the party's internal democracy has been opaque even though the party claims to have introduced democracy to the country through its armed struggle.

With electoral support for Renamo in steady decline, a resort to violence seems like a desperate strategy of the party and its leader to remain relevant.

Renamo is not the sole cause of this crisis. Frelimo needs to acknowledge some of the complaints raised by Renamo. There is growing discontent with the hegemony of the party and suspicions of lucrative ties between some of the party's members and spheres within the economy.

In spite of growing electoral support for the party, which has increased its share of parliamentary seats, Frelimo should note the increase in abstentions, perhaps as a sign of discontent.

The behaviour of Frelimo and Renamo is mainly supported by the institutional political framework. The presidential system falls short of adequate checks and balances.

Also within the political design of the country, decentralization has been timidly implemented. Provincial legislative power has been established but the executive remains appointed by the government.

Real political decentralization could help give a sense of inclusiveness and empowerment to political regions and opposition parties. These solutions require recognizing the cause of the problem.

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The Defence Ministry has alleged that Afonso Dhlakama's Renamo movement has killed at least ten civilians and injured dozens in ten weeks. Read more »