Maputo — The Mozambican government on Tuesday announced that the mayoral by-election in the northern city of Nampula will be held on 24 January.
Acting as government spokesperson, Deputy Education Minister Armindo Ngunga announced the decision at the end of the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet). He said that the rest of the timetable for the by-election will be fixed by the National Elections Commission (CNE).
The by-election was caused by the assassination of mayor Mahamudo Amurane on 4 October. Since Amurane died while his term of office still had more than a year to run, it was a legal imperative to hold a by-election, even though national municipal elections are scheduled for October.
Amurane was elected on 1 December 2013, on the ticket of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), and took office in February 2014.
The by-election will test whether the MDM has retained its support in Nampula following the murder of Amurane. Although Amurane never resigned from the MDM, he was in a bitter dispute with the MDM leadership, which he accused of wanting him to raid the municipal coffers for party political purposes. Amurane repeatedly said he intended to stand for a second term of office, but not as an MDM candidate.
Although no clear evidence has yet become public as to who was responsible for the assassination, last week, during a debate in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, several deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party publicly accused the MDM of the murder. MDM leader Daviz Simango has denied that the MDM was involved in the killing.
The 2013 municipal elections were boycotted by the rebel movement Renamo, which meant that the only serious candidates were from Frelimo and the MDM. The MDM won in the cities of Nampula, Beira and Quelimane and the town of Gurue. Frelimo won in the other 49 municipalities.
But Renamo has now promised to stand candidates in the forthcoming municipal elections, which threatens to split the opposition vote.
So far none of the three major parties has announced who their candidate will be in the Nampula by-election, although it is reported that the MDM is considering former journalist Fernando Bismarque, who is currently a deputy in the Assembly of the Republic.