Voting began in Mozambique’s presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections today, with President Armando Guebuza expected to retain power and move to attract more foreign investors.
The millionaire businessman and his ruling Frelimo party are unlikely to face any serious challenge from the opposition in a country with tourist potential and untapped mineral and energy resources that have started to draw foreign companies and investors, particularly from neighbouring South Africa.
Analysts do not expect Guebuza to get an absolute majority in parliament. And while investors would see a Guebuza victory as a sign of economic policy continuity, he faces pressure to provide more jobs and housing.
“There are expectations that Guebuza is going to win a second term and I think given the history, in terms of the views of the investor and international community, we are familiar with Guebuza,” said Yvonne Mhango, head of Africa Research at Standard Bank.
Long lines formed at polling stations. Just about half the population of 22.9 million, are registered voters. Full official results are not due until November 12.
The Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), a splinter of Renamo, a former rebel movement and now the main opposition, had been seen running Guebuza close until many of its candidates were barred from the contest due to registration irregularities.
While that may lead to questions about the integrity of the elections, analysts say opposition parties are too disorganised to make an impact but may gain ground in the long term.
Guebuza faces only two challengers Renamo head Afonso Dhlakama and MDM leader Daviz Simango.
No absolute majority
Frelimo, which has ruled the former Portuguese colony since elections in 1994 marked the end of a 16-year civil war, won 160 seats in parliament in 2004, while Guebuza notched up 64 % of the popular vote.
Dhlakama, who led a 16-year guerrilla war against Frelimo, is also trying to court the foreign capital that helped the agriculture-dependent economy grow more than 6 % last year. Expansion is forecast at 4.5 % for 2009.
“Our message was clear, to change Mozambique, to improve the well-being of people, economic development, employment for the youth, the rule of law, a change in everything, a complete revolution for the Mozambican people,” Dhlakama said.
Analysts expect Guebuza’s party to win a majority but not the two-thirds that would allow it to change the constitution.
“It’s quite clear that he will win but I don’t expect him to get an absolute majority in parliament because most of the voters were neither born during the liberation struggle nor the devastating 16-year war against Renamo,” said political analyst Gil Laureciano.
“They don’t care about what happened in the past, so they will be voting for better job opportunities, for quality education and housing.”
Horacio Cumbe, who lives in a poor area, said he will not vote. “I´m here at my market stall trying to earn a living. I need to sell something to feed my family, I have no time to waste standing to vote and lose a day on an empty stomach”.
Nearly 30 parties registered for the poll, but the election commission allowed candidates from only 19 to run. Only Frelimo and Renamo have been allowed to contest every constituency for the 250 seats in parliament.
Pic: President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique