SAR, Vol 15 No 1, December 1999
SIDE-STEP INTO "NORMALCY" ?
BY CARRIE MANNING
Carrie Manning is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. Her work on Mozambique's war to peace transition includes "Constructing Opposition in Mozambique: Renamo as Political Party," which appeared in the Journal of Southern African Studies in March 1998.
When Mozambique's 16-year civil war ended in 1992, the establishment of a formal multiparty democracy formed the centrepiece of the peace agreement. The success of Mozambique's democratic transition has therefore been key to the success of its simultaneous transition from war to peace. So far, the country has fared remarkably well. Mozambique's second multiparty general elections, scheduled for December 3 and 4, will provide an important test of this good fortune.
The first post-transition general elections are seen by some as important indicators of a new democracy's consolidation. In Africa, as Michael Bratton has pointed out [in "Second Elections in Africa," Journal of Democracy, 9, 3 (1998)], the results have generally been disappointing. As a rule, second elections in Africa have been characterized by reduced voter turnout, opposition boycotts, and further entrenchment of incumbents who win by increasingly large margins.
Mozambique's first electoral outing since the 1994 transitional elections, the local elections held in 33 municipalities in June 1998, seemed to confirm these trends. Marked by acrimony between government and opposition from the beginning, those elections were boycotted by virtually all of the opposition parties, most of whom had not in any case managed to meet onerous requirements for submission of party lists to the National Elections Commission (CNE). Voter turnout averaged less than 15 per cent, and fell below 6 per cent in some areas. Conduct of the elections was marred by strong accusations of irregularities, including stuffing of ballot boxes, and election administration in general was roundly criticized from all quarters. Frelimo won control of all of the assemblies and all mayoral positions, though significant gains were made by newly formed independent citizens' groups in Maputo, Beira, Manhica and Nampula.
For the upcoming round, the hard lessons of the municipal elections have been lost on no one. Thus far, preparations for the December elections promise a more satisfactory process, and the most important weaknesses of the municipal electoral process have been squarely addressed. Yet some of the issues that haunted that vote remain visible.
Foremost among these are the related questions of trust and transparency. As the municipal elections demonstrated, in Mozambique even technical decisions are still freighted with political implications, both real and imagined. In response to opposition complaints about political bias in the administration of the municipal elections, a new electoral law was passed this year that allows political parties to nominate personnel for a limited number of positions in the Technical Secretariat for Election Administration (STAE). In addition, the CNE and its sub-national counterparts are once again comprised of members nominated by the parties in proportion to their representation in the National Assembly. Nevertheless, disagreement over when these party-nominated STAE officials could begin work has prompted Renamo once more to claim that it has not been effectively represented in STAE, and that therefore the way has been paved for fraud. For its part, Renamo was slow to nominate people even for those positions which were not in question. In general, Renamo has demonstrated a lack of faith in the accountability of STAE to CNE. This perhaps reflects a more general suspicion of the accountability of bureaucrat to politician in a system in which there was no separation between party and state until very recently.
The decision to conduct an entirely new voter registration for these elections, rather than simply update existing rolls, constitutes further acknowledgment that technical and political questions remain inextricably intertwined in Mozambique. Yet even though the planned registration period was shortened from 90 to 60 days due to wrangling over election dates, the voter registration process was a resounding success. Eighty-five per cent of eligible voters were registered, surpassing even the 81% registration rate reached in 1994. Registration was observed by both domestic and international monitoring groups, none of whom cited serious problems with the process. In addition, both Frelimo and Renamo had party monitors in most polling stations, with very few reports of problems.
Who lives where and how population patterns may or may not have changed since 1994 have been important questions in this electoral period. Mozambique conducted a national population census in 1997, yielding an estimated eligible voter population of some 8.3 million (about 11 percent more than in 1994). Early debates about the number and distribution of voter registration brigades reflected Renamo's belief that the centre and north experienced greater population growth in the intervening years. The new voter registration figures provide partial support for this claim, and parliamentary mandates have changed accordingly. Provinces with the greatest growth in number of registered voters were Manica (30.7%), Tete (26.7%), and Niassa (26.3%), although Gaza also experienced a significant increase (16.8%), and the north-central provinces of Nampula and Zambezia, which together account for almost 40% of the nation's registered voters, saw relatively low growth (5% and 9% respectively). There was a net gain of one seat among provinces in which Renamo prevailed in the 1994 parliamentary elections, and a net loss of one seat in areas where Frelimo dominated.
As in past elections, logistics remain a problem this time, with some areas inaccessible except by helicopter. Despite major improvements in infrastructure in some parts of the country, road travel in much of rural Mozambique has improved little or not at all since 1994. Logistical problems are perhaps inevitable. What matters is whether they can be handled in a way that strengthens confidence in the electoral process. The efforts of STAE and CNE officials to overcome these hurdles during the registration process, with evident success, give credit on this score.
The ballot for the presidential contest will be considerably shorter than in 1994, with just two names: incumbent Joaquim Chissano and Afonso Dhlakama of Renamo. Thirteen groups (ten parties and three coalitions) will compete in parliamentary elections.
Two other would-be presidential candidates, Yaqub Sibindy and Wehia Ripua, of the UMO coalition, registered their intent but were disqualified by the Supreme Court on technical grounds. The candidacy of Wehia Ripua, president of the small PADEMO party and head of the UMO coalition, was rejected for insufficient signatures. (Ripua turned in 6,000 signatures, and told the Supreme Court that papers containing 7,000 more signatures were destroyed by Frelimo Dynamizing Groups in Matola as UMO members were collecting signatures.)
The parliamentary race will be contested by Frelimo, Renamo-Uniao Eleitoral (a coalition of Renamo and 10 small parties, all but three of which contested elections in 1994). Also running are six veterans of 1994 and also five new parties [the Greens (Partido Verde), PADELIMO (Democratic Party for the Liberation of Mozambique), PANAOC (National Party of Workers and Peasants), PPLM (Progressive Liberal Party of Mozambique), and PASOMO (no name published by CNE)]. This is for the most part a familiar field. But while the players are essentially the same as in 1994, the emergence of coalitions may well change the dynamics of the game.
Both UMO and Renamo-UE have had a very brief and tumultuous history. UMO emerged last spring as a coalition of nine parties, dwindled to four by midsummer and is now reduced to two or three. UMO's leader, Ripua, finished a distant third in the 1994 presidential race. Early this summer UMO looked like a strong contender, and one likely to bolster Frelimo in parliament. However, since the defection of a number of parties to Renamo-UE, UMO has been substantially stripped down.
Renamo-UE emerged in mid-July and includes three "third party" presidential candidates from 1994 (Carlos Reis of UNAMO, Maximo Dias of MONAMO, and Padimbe Kamati, of PPPM, each of whom pulled just over 2% of the vote in the 1994 presidential race). The ten parties in the coalition have agreed to support Dhlakama as the presidential candidate of the coalition, in exchange for key positions on the parliamentary lists. The existence of Renamo-UE may well mean that a number of the more visible presidential contenders from 1994 will find themselves in parliament.
This dynamic field is in stark contrast to the 1998 municipal contest, in which even before the opposition boycott was conceived, only one political party, PT, had managed to register with the CNE. However, the 1998 municipal elections also saw the emergence of a new "non-party" political force, the independent citizens' groups. These organizations declared themselves to be non-partisan citizen's groups interested in the nuts and bolts of governance. Their ability to get on the ballot and their showing at the polls made the parties look feeble by comparison, and there was some speculation that some of them might run a presidential candidate (only organizations officially registered as political parties may contest the parliamentary elections). None did.
New to this campaign period are visible efforts by both parties, but primarily Frelimo, to raise funds from the Mozambican private sector and from Portuguese and other foreign investors. President Chissano has hosted two dinners for Mozambican and foreign businessmen, which reportedly raised $700,000 US. There is speculation that many of the same businesses are also contributing to Renamo. Dhlakama, however, has denied this, saying the party will campaign with the money made available to parties by the state and the international community.
In addition, donors are weighing in with support. Approximately $3 million US has been allocated to support political party campaigns. Four donor countries - the US, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands - are expected to contribute a total of $1.5 million, with the same amount provided by the Mozambican government.
What is at stake?
The last five years have seen Mozambique emerge as a model of stability in a turbulent region. Internationally, President Chissano has gained stature as an elder statesman for his role in mediation attempts in the region, culminating in his selection as President of SADC in August of this year. Renamo has forged ties internationally with conservative parties; Dhlakama is currently serving as vice president of the African Democratic Union, a regional organization of right-leaning parties, and recently attended the meeting of the International Democratic Union, hosted by Britain's Conservative Party.
Mozambique has also done relatively well economically, having been rewarded by the IMF, the World Bank, and foreign investors for efforts at structural economic reform. Maputo itself visually trumpets the impact of all of this investment, with a welter of new hotels, restaurants, and boutiques. Of course, this says little about how much all of this has trickled down to the average citizen, and travel outside of the capital is a sobering contrast to the boom town feel of Maputo.
Finally, despite the occasional boycott of parliamentary votes and debates by Renamo, both sides seem to find the political arena a satisfactory place for the resolution of their differences. These elections, if successful, have the potential to mark the beginning of an era of "normalcy," in which the formal political mechanisms designed to contain elite conflict within peaceful political boundaries expand their focus from conflict management to competitive, representative politics.
To achieve this will require enormous effort by all of the political parties to carve out distinctive identities and constituencies based on a clear vision for Mozambique's economic and political future. There is still a long way to go in this regard. At this point, the platforms of the major parties are long on broad goals, with less to say about how those goals will be achieved. Both Frelimo and Renamo are focusing on bread and butter issues - improving living standards, reducing poverty - and measures to fight corruption appear set to hold prominent spots in the campaigns of both parties. Renamo-UE will likely run on the claim that Frelimo has had its chance to govern and that it hasn't done enough for the average citizen. Frelimo can be expected to counter that it has laid a solid foundation for growth and socioeconomic improvement for all, and that continuity is required for these changes to bear fruit.
The challenge of democratization in Mozambique, as in any post-conflict society that attempts democracy, is to balance the divisive tendencies of electoral competition with the ongoing need for political reconciliation and accommodation. Campaign season naturally brings competition to the fore, placing enormous stress on common ground painstakingly reached over the last five years. But at their best, elections can also serve to demonstrate to all parties that even at the height of its intensity, political competition obeys impartial, mutually agreed rules, both in letter and spirit. That was the message in 1994, with Mozambique still in the shadow of the United Nations observer mission. One hopes that the December elections will confirm early indications, and reaffirm the lesson.
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