Recently Mozambique has seen several significant developments in two of the key game-changing elements of a country moving swiftly towards an election in October 2014.
- The selection by the FRELIMO Central Committee of the candidate who will stand for the Presidential Election in October 2014;
- Movement affecting the national dialogue process between FRELIMO and RENAMO related to the successful consensus building dialogues, including the MDM, on the reform of the electoral law;
- Developments within the national dialogue process which now appears to be moving in a positive direction.
Internal FRELIMO Presidential Candidate Selection Process
The election of the internal FRELIMO presidential candidate was seen as an important event that would have a key impact on the run up to the election and beyond. The importance of this element of the contextual analysis is centred around not only the actual candidate that was selected, but also the internal dynamics within FRELIMO around how the final decision was reached and the impact this appeared to have on internal party unity.
It should be recalled that at one stage FRELIMO was involved in an internal dispute between the candidates proposed by the powerful Political Commission within the Central Committee (CC) and CC members who wished to propose additional pre-candidates. The CC Verification Committee had declared that additional candidates were not eligible, to the chagrin of some CC members, including former President Chissano, who argued that this declaration by the Verification Committee went against the FRELIMO constitution. Several commentators raised concerns that this dispute could lead to internal divisions within the ruling party that would have negative implications for the country as a whole.
Significantly two additional pre-candidates were admitted to the internal election process before the discussions began, resulting in an election process that had to go to two rounds before a candidate with an absolute majority could be declared from amongst the final five candidates. The admission of additional pre-candidates may have been influenced by a call from the influential Association of Veterans for the National Liberation Struggle, a FRELIMO body made up of former liberation movement combatants. Whether or not it was in response to this specific pressure the resultant agreement to admit additional candidates speaks to the strength of the internal democratic process within FRELIMO and is a positive indicator of internal differences being managed in a mature manner.
In the first round of the election process out of the five pre-candidates Filipe Nyussi received 46% of the vote, with the second most popular candidate, Luisa Diogo, receiving 23%. In the second round Nyussi received 68% while Diogo received 31%. It should be noted that Diogo was the first woman candidate considered by FRELIMO for the top position within the party. This result will be seen as a victory for the Political Commission and a vindication of their initial pre-candidate selection.
The upbeat manner in which the election results were announced, and the accompanying messaging concerned with projecting internal cohesion and party unity, able to acknowledge and manage differences of opinion, alleviates some of the concerns initially raised around the extent of the divisions within the party.
The election of Filipe Nyussi represents the successful management of a generational change process within FRELIMO, one of the areas of tension that was identified during the conflict analysis. However Defence Minister Nyussi is also a preferred candidate of the President Armando Guebuza, feeding into speculation that supporters of Guebuza within the CC may still try to influence and retain some control of the future direction of the party.
While this makes sense politically for FRELIMO it fuels concerns raised by those who position themselves as opponents to the current economic and political trajectory of the party and the wider implications and impact this appears to be having on the broader social and political landscape.
Electoral Law Reform
The approval by the Mozambican Parliament on the 27th of February 2014 of an amendment to electoral legislation deepening the politicisation of the polling stations also has significance. The move was seen as unexpected given that the Commission on Public Administration that has a significant FRELIMO majority had previously twice rejected it. The Commission discussions are ordinarily passed by consensus, though in this instance the MDM had forced a vote that went against their proposal on two occasions.
Following a request that was granted for a lengthy interval for reflection by the FRELIMO Assembly Chairperson party representatives returned to the Assembly and the MDM tabled proposal was adopted unanimously. The strong messaging regarding the importance of unanimity within the Assembly on Electoral Reform related discussions is a positive indicator of tolerance and democratic principles that will have positive implications for the broader electoral process.
However the reform legislation itself will result in an increasingly politicised electoral climate within the polling stations. Each polling station will now have two additional staff, seven in total, three of whom will have been appointed by the contesting political parties. Some analysts have pointed out that the reform will also stretch the capacity of the smaller parties, especially the MDM, who will now have to find eligible candidates to staff the polling stations, reducing their ability to have an impact in other aspects of the electoral process.
Amendments tabled by RENAMO and adopted on the 22nd of February, had a similar politicising effect on the electoral process. The RENAMO reforms place political appointees into the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat at central, provincial and district level. This will place an additional strain on the MDM while also contributing significantly to the increasingly politicised electoral management bodies.
While the adopted reforms have resulted in a useful consensus agreement between all of the parties, and helped to ensure that all political parties will participate in the election process, the reforms have also opened up a number of areas where there will be escalated tensions and the potential for volatile outbreaks should any disputes arise. The reliance on a balance of political representatives to ensure confidence in the process leaves the election process vulnerable to a scenario in which a dispute in one polling station, or at any of the various levels at which the technical Secretariat functions, spreading rapidly to other areas and threatening the overall integrity of the election.
The decision to handle election disputes through the district courts, a move away from the current situation in which disputes are handled by the National Electoral Commission, is also significant. In a context in which many perceive the justice system as being biased towards the ruling party the absence of an independent dispute resolution mechanism is of concern.
In a more positive development the incorporation into the bill of a commitment to sharing an electronic copy of the voters roll at least 45 days before the election will instill some confidence in the process. A mechanism governing the process of recounts in the event of a dispute is also a welcome addition.
National Dialogue Process
The electoral reform process has also enabled movement to take place within the formal dialogue between RENAMO and FRELIMO. Recalling that this dialogue began in April 2013, and that it has been stuck on the first agenda item, electoral legislation, the reform process in electoral legislation has enabled discussions to move to agenda item 2, Defence and Security Matters. Informal reports suggest that agreement has almost been reached on the importance of declaring a ceasefire from both sides.
While it remains to be seen if this positive outlook results in a firm agreement and a cessation of hostilities, particularly regarding the ongoing military activity in Sofala, the more positive messaging is helpful. Agreement on a ceasefire, and on mechanisms to ensure it is upheld, including the potentially divisive issue of international monitoring, will open the way to move to items 3 and 4. These items are concerned with the separation of state and party and economic issues raised by RENAMO that have not been clearly specified, but are probably connected to the economic control of resources in areas where RENAMO has been historically popular.
Article by Richard Smith