22 April, 2012

Mozambique and the 2014 Presidential Succession.

by Rui Faro Saraiva

FRELIMO (‘Frente de Libertação de Moçambique’) continues to control the government of Mozambique: it is the only political party that has been in power since independence over 35 years ago. Armando Guebuza, the incumbent President of Mozambique will step down from power during the next elections with no apparent prospects for the opposition to gain a more participative role in the government. The weakening of RENAMO (‘Resistência Nacional de Moçambique’) as an opposition party seems to consolidate FRELIMO's hegemony in the Mozambican political landscape. During the 2009 elections the new ‘Movimento Democrático de Moç̧ambique’ (MDM) emerged as a new political actor with sensational results. The MDM party leader was the Beira mayor Daviz Simango and the creation of this new party seemed to stimulate a long stagnant political process. But at the same time, it may break the already weak bipolar FRELIMO-RENAMO dynamic into a triangular dispute that lowers the possibility of the opposition reaching power.

Although Mozambique it’s still a developing country with great challenges, where 55% of the population lives below the poverty line, it’s also one of the ten fastest growing countries in the world over the past ten years. Mozambican exports are growing; foreign investment is reaching levels never before imagined and domestic consumption is also increasing. The predicted GDP 7.5% growth for 2012 and the general optimism about the coming years means that Mozambique is now viewed as one of the most dynamic and attractive African countries for foreign investors.

Along with the rise of the Mozambican economy it is difficult to predict the rise of political reforms that may lead the country into a 'mature' democracy, with a strong opposition and alternating parties in power. Succession will be decided this year and some names echo in the press or among the political elites and the civil society, such as Graça Machel, the widow of the revolutionary Mozambican leader Samora Machel and the 3rd wife of the former South Africa President Nelson Mandela. Other names are the current Mozambican Prime-Minister Aires Ali, the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Executive Secretary Tomás Salomão, General Alberto Chipande or even the former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano. The decision about Guebuza’s successor will take place at the 10th FRELIMO Congress, this September: exactly 50 years after the creation of the liberation movement.

It can be confidently said that the nomination of the new FRELIMO leader will also determine who is the next President of Mozambique after the 2014 general elections. This situation seems to be a reflection of a weak democracy in which public appointments result from the distribution of influence, from the system of FRELIMO’s cherry picking and string pulling. This, along with other forms of corruption, draws legitimacy to political power, weakens accountability and public confidence and allows certain members of society to have a privileged and obscure access to public goods and decisions.

The results of the 2009 elections show an unbalanced Mozambican political system. FRELIMO’s presidential candidate, Armando Guebuza, garnered 75% of the votes. And at the Mozambican Parliament, FRELIMO got 191 seats out of 250. Although it is possible to find the foundations for a democratic regime in Mozambique, the current system seems to be a multiparty illusion more similar to a one party autocracy.

For now, with the Mozambican economic dynamism and the spike in investor interest in the country, there seem to be few signs of political reforms that may lead the country into a more ‘mature’ democracy and a more open and inclusive political system. But today’s vibrant economy may eventually help pave the way towards tomorrow’s vibrant democracy, although that doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong trend in the Southern African region.

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