Renamo Electoral Participation: Positive But No Panacea

BMI View: Although a positive sign that progress to end violence in Mozambique can be made, the announcement by opposition party Renamo that it will participate in the October 2014 general election should be treated with caution. Clashes between the government forces and Renamo have continued during early 2014 and this could harden the government's position. Even if Renamo do take part in the vote, we believe that the party will fare poorly.

A member of opposition party Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Renamo) has announced that the party will participate in the October general election. The announcement was seemingly confirmed when the Council of Ministers (Mozambique's cabinet) declared that registration for the vote, which had been scheduled to begin at the end of January, will be delayed by two weeks in order to give Renamo time to prepare for the registration process. The delay reportedly came at the request of Renamo.

The party's participation in the polls has been uncertain; it boycotted local elections held in November 2013 in protest against perceived unfairness in the makeup of the country's electoral commission. The local elections arguably confirmed Renamo's suspicions with the Comissão Nacional Eleitoral (CNE) implicated in dubious outcomes in several constituencies at the local elections. According to the local media that reported Renamo's decision, it remains unclear whether the party's participation will depend on revision to the country's electoral laws.

Losing Popular Support
Mozambique - Share Of 250 Parliamentary Seats, % (LHS) & Party Candidate's Share Of Presidential Vote, % (RHS)

Renamo Electoral Participation: Positive But No Panacea

BMI View: Although a positive sign that progress to end violence in Mozambique can be made, the announcement by opposition party Renamo that it will participate in the October 2014 general election should be treated with caution. Clashes between the government forces and Renamo have continued during early 2014 and this could harden the government's position. Even if Renamo do take part in the vote, we believe that the party will fare poorly.

A member of opposition party Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Renamo) has announced that the party will participate in the October general election. The announcement was seemingly confirmed when the Council of Ministers (Mozambique's cabinet) declared that registration for the vote, which had been scheduled to begin at the end of January, will be delayed by two weeks in order to give Renamo time to prepare for the registration process. The delay reportedly came at the request of Renamo.

The party's participation in the polls has been uncertain; it boycotted local elections held in November 2013 in protest against perceived unfairness in the makeup of the country's electoral commission. The local elections arguably confirmed Renamo's suspicions with the Comissão Nacional Eleitoral (CNE) implicated in dubious outcomes in several constituencies at the local elections. According to the local media that reported Renamo's decision, it remains unclear whether the party's participation will depend on revision to the country's electoral laws.

The announcement of its participation comes three days after Renamo returned to talks with the ruling Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo) following a three month boycott, which was based on the opposition party's desire for mediation in the talks. Frelimo has accepted two Mozambican mediators proposed by Renamo, but the ruling party's position on a long list of international mediators demanded by Renamo remains unclear. The fact that Renamo's demands on electoral reform and on international mediation at the talks appear not to have been met, raise questions about the party's apparent reengagement.

This is made more uncertain by the fact that violent incidents between Renamo militia and government forces, which began in April 2013, have continued during early 2014. According to the "Mozambique News Reports and Clippings" publication, there were seven attacks in the three weeks leading up to January 28, predominantly in central Mozambique. During its announcement about its electoral participation, Renamo admitted that its recent military forays have been aimed at persuading the government to take the party seriously at the talks, as we have argued in the past (see 'War Unlikely But Further Violence Probable' from October 22 2013). It is unlikely that Frelimo will make too many compromises at those talks if the violence continues.

Spent Political Force?

We have also argued in the past that the fact that Renamo has been forced to resort to violence to get its message across is an indication of its waning political fortunes. As the chart below shows, its showing has deteriorated at successive elections since the turn of the century and its recent antics are unlikely to have endeared it to the electorate. We therefore think that even if it does participate in the forthcoming elections, it is unlikely to do too well.

Losing Popular Support
Mozambique - Share Of 250 Parliamentary Seats, % (LHS) & Party Candidate's Share Of Presidential Vote, % (RHS)

In our view, the mantle of main opposition party has been taken over by the Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (MDM), which performed strongly at November's local elections (see 'Opposition MDM Party's Star Continues To Rise' from December 12). Admittedly, Renamo's boycott of the local elections meant that the anti-Frelimo vote was spread less thinly than might have been the case if Renamo had participated. It is possible that if Renamo's decision to take part in the general election might dilute MDM's support. However, we believe that Renamo's return to the use of force over recent months will come at the expense of popular support. Furthermore, it looks likely that Afonso Dhlakama, who has been Renamo leader since 1979, will lead the party into those elections. We believe that there is likely to be an element of Dhlakama-fatigue amongst voters who are opposed to Frelimo's continued hegemony.

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