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Monday, 9 November 2009

Broken oppositions..

A new piece in the Africa Confidential makes fascinating reading on the Mozambique political landscape, discussed here :

A dominant party – not a one-party state, Africa Confidential, Commentary:

The decisive re-election of President Armando Guebuza on 27 October delivered all that the governing Frente de Libertação de Moçambique wanted: victory with over 75% of the vote in presidential and parliamentary polls. This is a much bigger margin than any of the three previous elections since multiparty politics was introduced in 1990 and gives Guebuza the power to change the constitution. Frelimo’s grip over the country is now total: it holds pluralities in all eleven provinces and nearly all opposition strongholds have fallen. It will control 192 of 248 seats in Parliament and all of the newly created provincial councils. It already held all but one of the elected city councils, with nearly all seats in many of them.

Frelimo has never been entirely comfortable with the constitutional limitations imposed by multiparty democracy, since it gave up the privileges of the one-party state in the peace process that brought an end to the civil war in 1992. Although rolling back political pluralism had begun in the late 1990s, that process has advanced much further under Guebuza.The opposition Resistência Nacional Moçambicana has been crushed, reduced to 48 seats and less than 15% of the vote.

This is an enormous defeat for Renamo, which had been one of the largest opposition parties in Africa, winning a third or more of votes in the last three elections.The upstart Movimento Democrático de Moçambique, the most capable and promising opposition party, which had bled talent and support from Renamo, was running in its first campaign but has secured barely a foothold, winning just eight seats after being banned from running in 70% of constituencies. Although ostensibly on procedural grounds, the attempt to strangle the MDM in the cradle bears the mark of Frelimo.
More than any other to date, the elections were marked by irregularity and rules favouring the incumbents. This has led to unprecedented criticism from international observers, including the European Union, the Commonwealth and even the normally supine African Union. They cite a lack of fairness or transparency and a selective application of the rules.

Although Frelimo’s overall victory was not a stolen one, it has used its dominance of what are meant to be independent institutions to achieve hegemony. Apart from well documented cases of fraud and bias by the government, the issue of exclusion is the most grave. In 64 of 141 constituencies, only Frelimo was standing and the limitation of choice was serious. In addition to the MDM, which was barred from running candidates in nine of 13 constituencies, ten other parties were ruled out altogether. Some actions by the electoral commission, the Comissão Nacional de Eleições (CNE), backed by the Constitutional Court, were deliberately exclusionary. Decisions were marked by narrow, partial and unequal application of electoral law, which negatively affect the freedom and fairness of the electoral process, as well as deliberate obstruction and lack of transparency.

Diluting democracy

A more principled reading of relevant legislation could easily have accommodated the MDM and other parties, without exposing the CNE to near universal public scepticism about its true motivations. That it did not points to the central character of the dominant party state achieved by Frelimo. It has accepted the outward forms of pluralism and constitutionalism: limits to the action of dominant interests in order to maintain legitimacy, reinforced by the recent history of violent conflict, and avoid sanction from abroad, reinforced by the high degree of dependence on foreign donors. Yet it has diluted them in practice through control of state and non-state institutions.

The CNE and courts are highly politicised bodies under Frelimo’s control and even the selection of civil society representatives for them has produced appointees close to the governing party. The MDM has gamely carried on, using any avenues available to appeal. It has launched an unprecedented court case in suing the CNE. Its well regarded presidential candidate, Daviz Simango, achieved a respectable 10% of the vote, to 15% for Renamo’s Afonso Dhlakama but has failed to make the breakthrough hoped for, including the expectation that it could quickly eclipse Renamo.

Renamo is now in a weakened state and, given habitual factionalism and disarray, is destined to leak members and support to the MDM. Having proclaimed this to be his last campaign, Dhlakama is to bow out in favour of another leader but has released no timeline nor groomed an heir apparent. He leaves a party hollowed out by factionalism and bereft of talent, having lost much of that to the MDM.

Guebuza begins his second and final term seemingly omnipotent. Power has become centralised around the President, whose grip on the party and ability to implement directives from the centre is near total. The party’s discipline and the strength of its structures have increased enormously. Sure to avoid the fate of his predecessor, Joaquim Chissano, whose leadership was undermined, Guebuza will keep the succession in abeyance.

Old-guard figures may have been rehabilitated but it is understood that the party also needs renewal and that the succession should skip a generation. Guebuza has groomed younger technocrats and others, including Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi and Interior Minister José Pacheco, as well as the independent-minded Prime Minister, Luisa Diogo.

Although dominant, Guebuza leaves his party and country with serious weaknesses. Having recentralised power, he has undermined pluralism and the basis of Mozambique’s remarkable post-war success – the principle that legal limits to the interests of the dominant party guarantee domestic legitimacy. As a post-conflict country, Mozambique retains a higher than average probability of the re-emergence of conflict. That is not imminent, but confidence and trust have been seriously undermined. Ex-combatants from Renamo have demanded a rerun of the elections and threatened to resume war if their demands are not met.

The position of foreign creditors and aid givers has become more complex. They have committed over US$1 billion a year to support the government’s poverty reduction goals, increasingly as direct budget support and subject to governance and other indicators, including democratic pluralism. With the shine fading on the Mozambique miracle, some are ready to vote with their cheque books. For Frelimo, the consequences are more immediate. Although Guebuza has given them everything they want, the costs are higher than expected (AC Vol 50 No 10).

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