Mozambique Votes in Key Test for Peace Deal

15 October 2019

The crucial vote is the first since the government and rebels signed a peace deal to end decades of conflict.

Mozambicans are voting on Tuesday in a high-stakes election viewed as a test for consolidating a peace deal signed between the ruling government party and opposition rebels in the southern African country.

The Frelimo party, which has ruled the country since independence from Portugal in 1975, is expected to maintain control against its rival Renamo.

The two sides signed a peace deal in August to end decades of civil war that devastated the economy and left a million dead. The 1975 to 1992 conflict was followed by a truce until Renamo took up arms again following a contested 2014 vote.

Around 13 million registered voters are able to cast ballots for presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections.

Frelimo marred by scandal

President Filipe Nyusi is expected to secure a second five-year term despite a financial crisis triggered by a $2 billion (€1.8 billion) corruption scandal linked to secret services and the Defense Ministry.

The government is also struggling to recover from two devastating cyclones in March, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

But the president is also credited with securing a $25 billion liquid natural gas project that will make the impoverished nation one of the world's largest gas exporters.

Renamo hopes for gains

Led by its new leader Ossufo Momade, Renamo is hoping to take control of three to five of Mozambique's 10 provinces following a change to the law implemented as part of the peace deal that allow voters to directly elect provincial governors.

However, it's unclear how much power provincial governors will wield after Frelimo created a provincial secretary of state position, which will be appointed by the president and take on many of the functions that governors previously held.

Fear of violence

The lead-up to the vote was marked by intimidation against candidates, allegations of fraud and deadly fights breaking out between supporters.

Renamo has already accused the government of tampering with the vote, raising questions over whether the former rebels will accept the results.

The fear is that violence could rekindle if the results are disappointing for Renamo, or they challenge the outcome.

Complicating the situation, an armed breakaway Renamo faction has rejected Momade's leadership and threatened violence.

Insecurity and political tensions might keep some people from the polls in the country's north, where a low-level Islamist insurgency has left hundreds dead over the past two years.

The country's third-largest party, MDM, is also contesting elections.

Polls close at 6 p.m. local time and preliminary results are expected on Wednesday, with full provisional results before the end of the week.

A runoff will be held if no presidential candidate wins a majority of the vote.

(AFP, AP, Reuters)

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