Mozambique – President Nyusi elected leader of ruling party FRELIMO

Yesterday, on the final day of the FRELIMO party congress, former President Armando Guebuza stepped down as leader of ruling party FRELIMO. President Filipe Nyusi was elected as his successor. Guebuza’s resignation is in line with the Party’s practice that the same person should hold the post of president of the state and of the party. Yet, intra-party conflicts may have speeded up Guebuza’s early resignation.

Ever since the first democratic elections in 1994, the FRELIMO party has managed to secure a parliamentary majority and to elect a president.

Traditionally, the president of the state and the president of FRELIMO have always been the same person. The only time that both posts were not unified in the same person was after Guebuza won the 2004 presidential election and Joaquim Chissano was still president of FRELIMO. Few months later Chissano ended any possible intra-party conflict by resigning as leader of FRELIMO in March 2005. The FRELIMO Political Commission then elected Guebuza to lead the party, thus uniting once again the post of president of the state and of the party in the same person.

When Guebuza was re-elected party leader in 2012 there was speculation that this would lead to two centres of power in the ruling party. In theory, the term of office of the President of FRELIMO is from one Congress to the next (5-6 years). So after Nyusi was sworn in as the new President of Mozambique on 15 January 2015, the head of FRELIMO was no longer the head of state.

This situation, a form of intra-party cohabitation, generated intra-party conflict, in particular, regarding the President’s Nyusi’s stance on how to deal with threats coming from Mozambique’s main opposition party RENAMO.

‘Autonomy Bill’

RENAMO never accepted the 2014 general election results. In protest against what they considered fraudulent election results, RENAMO boycotted parliament and called for autonomy in six provinces[1] where it claims it won a majority of votes and where, perhaps not coincidentally, the majority of the nation’s mineral resources are located.

In an effort to ease inter-party tensions the newly-elected President Nyusi invited opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama to submit a bill on the creation of autonomous provinces to parliament, while making no commitment that such a bill would be approved by the FRELIMO majority in parliament. Yet, the Nyusi-Dhlakama agreement was not well-received by the President’s own party. According to members of FRELIMO’s ruling Political Commission, the proposal for regional autonomy would destroy national unity and is unacceptable. Mozambique’s newspaper Savana interpreted this as a split in FRELIMO, with Guebuza as head of the party trying to undermine President Nyusi’s negotiations with Dhlakama.

Guebuza’s resignation may thus end intra-party conflicts. In addition, his early resignation abolishes the 5-6 year term limits set for FRELIMO presidents since his mandate would only end in 2017.

Meanwhile, RENAMO has submitted the ‘Autonomy Bill’ which will be discussed in the forthcoming parliamentary sitting, due to begin on 31 March. The Bill will likely increase political tensions as RENAMO threatened to resort to violence in the case the Bill will not be passed by parliament.

[1] Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa.

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