Maputo — Almost all the 250 members of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, elected on 15 October, took the oath of office on Monday, at a ceremony chaired by President Filipe Nyusi.
There had been much speculation as to whether the deputies from the main opposition party, Renamo, would boycott the ceremony, in protest at what they regard as a "mega-fraud" during the elections.
But in the event all 60 Renamo deputies took their seats, as did the six deputies elected by the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
The only deputies absent were three of the 184 elected from the ruling Frelimo Party. These absentees included Alberto Niquice, elected from the southern province of Gaza, who is facing charges of sexually assaulting a minor. Organisations fighting for the rights of women and children had threatened to stage protests, if Niquice took up his seat.
The only other item of business in the Monday sitting was the election of the Assembly chairperson (Speaker).
There was just one candidate, Esperanca Bias, proposed by Frelimo. Neither of the opposition parties bothered to propose a candidate.
Nonetheless, in line with the Assembly's standing orders, an election by secret ballot was held. Of the 246 deputies who cast votes, 179 (73 per cent) voted for Bias, eight voted against her, and 59 deputies cast blank ballots.
Closing the sitting, Nyusi urged his own party not to become arrogant in the light of its huge majority in the new Assembly.
The fact that Frelimo now has a majority of over two thirds "should be deconstructed", he said. The deputies should never forget that the country is more important than the parliamentary groups, and that "the interests of Mozambicans must prevail".
Nyusi wanted to avoid the perception that everything in the Assembly will be decided by the Frelimo group. Instead, "there should be consistent work seeking to establish consensus whenever possibly, particularly in matters that structure national life", he said.
Nyusi reminded the deputies that "the people are the owners of power", and the parliamentarians must faithfully represent them.
He called on the deputies to behave in a dignified way which would "inspire all Mozambicans to bank on dialogue, in the certainty that differences of opinion, when well managed, can be enriching and can contribute to national development".
The people, he added, expect the Assembly to promote the spirit of "national unity, concord, fraternity and harmony, without distinctions of political colours".
Esperanca Bias takes over from Veronica Macamo, who chaired the Assembly for the previous ten years. Bias, who is an economist by profession, was the chair of the Assembly's Plan and Budget Commission.
Before her election to the Assembly in the 2014 general election she had been Minister of Mineral Resources (2005-2014).
Bias has been a member of the Frelimo Central Committee since 2007. She was elected onto the party's Political Commission in 2012, but lost this position at the subsequent Frelimo Congress in 2017.
The rest of the Assembly leadership - its Standing Commission, and the various working commissions - will be elected at the next sitting, in February.