On 20 November 2013 local elections were held in Mozambique. These were the first local elections since 2008. They are the last electoral test of party support prior to the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for October 2014?
The local elections are important because they took place amidst an outbreak of conflict between the ruling FRELIMO party of President Guebuza and the main opposition party, RENAMO. RENAMO wants reform of the electoral law, saying it is biased in favor of FRELIMO. Yet the government refuses to give in to RENAMO’s demands, prompting the latter to boycott the local elections.
Provisional results show that FRELIMO is leading in 50 out of the 53 municipalities. Interestingly, the country’s third-largest party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), made substantial gains in urban centres. MDM, a RENAMO breakaway party, founded in 2009, has considerable support within the educated youth population. Unofficial sources report that in the capital, Maputo, and Matola the party gained 39.78 per cent and 43.33 per cent of the votes respectively with 72 percent of votes counted. MDM retained its mayorships in Beira and Quelimane, Mozambique’s second and fourth largest cities respectively. In other municipalities, such as Zambezia, Sofala and Manica MDM lost by small margins.
Some observers predict that MDM will replace RENAMO as Mozambique’s main opposition party. Others believe that MDM’s electoral success may partly be explained by RENAMO’s absence from the local elections.
Despite this, FRELIMO remains unbeatable. The party came to power through the national liberation struggle and has been victorious in all elections since the end of Mozambique’s civil war in 1992. Yet the poor performance of the party’s candidates in Maputo and Matola – cities were the elite of Mozambique lives – may further complicate the selection process of its presidential candidate. President Guebuza has indicated that he will step down in 2014 but so far the party has not yet announced who its next presidential candidate will be. Daviz Simango, the leader of MDM and mayor of Beira, has announced his intention to join the presidential race.