The Mozambique electoral commission has announced official results of the municipal elections held in November, showing significant gains by a new opposition party.
The Frelimo party won 50 urban areas, but lost three of the four largest cities to the opposition who also gained council seats throughout the country, in all but two of the urban areas.
According to official results announced by the National Electoral Commission (CNE) on Friday, the Frelimo party has won the mayor and council in 50 urban areas but lost Beira and Quelimane to the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
Results are not yet official for the city of Nampula where the election was repeated due to irregularities, but preliminary results show a gain by MDM, and Frelimo has conceded defeat.
That leaves the capital city, Maputo, with the Frelimo party after scraping through with 37 of the 64 seats in council.
Frelimo's winning candidate for mayor of Maputo, David Simango, has a very similar name to the leader of the opposition who is mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango.
The official results are still to be validated by proclamation of the Constitutional Council. Both parties have expressed satisfaction with their performance.
This is the first time MDM has entered party candidates to contest the local elections since breaking away from the Mozambique Resistance Movement (Renamo) in 2009.
Daviz Simango was first elected mayor of Beira in 2003 on a Renamo ticket, and in 2008 as an independent candidate, before forming the MDM to contest national elections in 2009. He gained 8.6 percent of the vote in the presidential election in 2009, compared to 16.4 percent for the Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, and 75 percent for incumbent President Armando Guebuza standing for his second term.
The MDM is now well-placed to contest national elections in 2014, and planned to hold its first national congress in early December. Simango has already announced that he will contest the presidency of the country in national elections set for 15 October.
President Guebuza is completing his second term in office and will not stand again, but Frelimo has not yet announced its candidate to replace him.
MDM has also declared its intention to win a majority in parliament, where it holds eight seats gained in 2009 elections to Renamo's 51 and 191 won by Frelimo.
Mozambique's parliamentary elections use a system of proportional representation by province, rather than individual constituencies and the vote in major cities will have an impact.
Renamo did not contest local elections and is unlikely to contest national elections again, as resources and supporters have shifted their focus to MDM.
However, Renamo has continued to threaten stability with a spate of armed attacks in the centre of the country, most recently raiding a police post and medical centre in early December at Tica, some 75km northwest of Beira, after the defence ministry announced that 10 people have died in attacks in the last six weeks.