Maputo — Two former Mozambican Prime Ministers, Luisa Diogo and Aires Ali, have joined the race to become the candidate of the ruling Frelimo Party in the next presidential election, scheduled for 15 October.
The secretary of the party's disciplinary body, the Verification Commission, Jose Pacheco (who is also Agriculture Minister), confirmed to reporters on Thursday afternoon that both Diogo and Ali have submitted their nominations, supported by the requisite number of Central Committee members (at least 20).
It is known that more than 60 Central Committee members have backed Diogo's nominations. It is not yet clear how many supporters Ali has.
Luisa Diogo was Prime Minister from 2004 to 2010, first under President Joaquim Chissano, and then during Guebuza's first term.
She was succeeded by Aires Ali, who held the post from 2010 to 2012.
Later in the day, the former speaker of the Mozambican parliament, Eduardo Mulembue, announced that he too was putting his name forward to become the party's candidate.
The current President, Armando Guebuza, was elected for two five year terms and, under the Mozambican constitution, he is not eligible to stand again this year. Under the Frelimo statutes it is the Party's Central Committee, currently meeting in the southern city of Matola, which must choose the Presidential candidate.
Diogo, Ali and Mulembue join the three “pre-candidates” proposed by the Frelimo Political Commission in December - namely Pacheco, the current Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina, and Defence Minister Filipe Nyussi.
Shortly after the Political Commission announcement, the Frelimo general secretary Filipe Paunde told a press conference that there was “no space” for any other “pre-candidates”.
His words were widely denounced as a violation of the Frelimo statutes, and as an attempt by the Political Commission to usurp a role reserved for the Central Committee. Dozens of Frelimo members, some of them very senior, sent a petition to the Verification Commission demanding respect for the statutes.
Former President Joaquim Chissano was one of the many prominent Frelimo figures who declared publicly that the race for the succession could not be limited to the Political Commission's short list of three.
Perhaps the most significant rebuff to Paunde came from the Association of Veterans of the National Liberation Struggle (ACLLN), which is affiliated to Frelimo. A meeting of the ACLLN National Committee, while not ruling out any of the three names on the short list, declared “there should be an opening for more candidates who are consensual”.
Luisa Diogo's chances can only have been boosted by an opinion poll published in last week's issue of the independent paper “Savana”, which showed that, of all the people whose names had been mentioned as possible Frelimo presidential she was by far the most popular.
1,348 people of voting age were interviewed in seven of Mozambique's 11 provinces (Maputo City, Maputo Province, Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia, Tete, and Sofala), and were asked who they thought would be the best Frelimo candidate.
41 per cent named Diogo as their first preference. She was followed by Ali on 19 per cent. None of the names on the short list could obtain more than five per cent of first preferences.