Mozambique’s Guebuza headed for election victory

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza appeared headed for a resounding victory in an election yesterday that would also see his ruling Frelimo party winning parliamentary and provincial polls.
Partial results showed Guebuza, seen as welcoming of greater foreign investment, taking a commanding lead over his rivals, longtime opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama, and the head of a new party, Daviz Simango.
Guebuza captured 77 % of the presidential vote in all but one of Mozambique’s 11 provinces, with 15 % going to Simango, head of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), a splinter of Renamo, a former rebel group and now the main opposition.
Renamo leader Dhlakama, who led a 16-year guerrilla war against Frelimo, has taken eight percent.
Millionaire businessman Guebuza and his ruling Frelimo party are expected to face pressure to provide poor Mozambicans with the benefits of tourism and untapped mineral and energy resources that have started to draw foreign companies and investors, particularly from neighbouring South Africa.
“We’ve just started counting the votes, these are partial results from the districts and towns with easy access of roads,” said Lucas Jose, spokesman for the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE). He said final official results are not expected until November 12.
MDM had been seen running close to Guebuza until many of its candidates were barred from the contest due to registration irregularities. That raised questions over the integrity of the polls.
Analysts say opposition parties are too disorganised to make an impact — though they may gain ground in the long term but, even so, they do not expect Guebuza to get an absolute majority in parliament.
Foreign investment drive
In a sign that Guebuza now has to accommodate a new generation that was not born in the liberation struggle nor the 16-year civil war against Renamo, many youths thronged polling stations in scorching heat, hoping to bring change.
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.
Frelimo, which has ruled the former Portuguese colony since elections in 1994 marked the end of the war, won 160 seats in parliament in 2004, while Guebuza notched up 64 % of the popular vote.
Just under half the population of 22.9 million are registered to vote.
Guebuza, who made his fortune in the energy, transport and port industries, faced only two challengers Renamo head Afonso Dhlakama and MDM leader Simango.
A Guebuza win would reassure investors, who want continuity in economic policy.
Despite being one of Africa’s poorest countries, Mozambique has growing economic potential. Guebuza has said he would simplify investment laws, cut red tape and press on with market liberalisation.
But he faces growing calls to provide more jobs and housing.
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.

Pic: President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique