After several tense months of political infighting, the ruling Frelimo party of Mozambique finally selected Defense Minister Filipe Jacinto Nyussi as nominee for president. Nyussi’s choice virtually guarantees President Guebuza’s influence in state affairs after his term ends in 2015.
In a decisive win for President Guebuza, the Frelimo Central Committee picked Defense Minister Filipe Jacinto Nyussi as their next presidential candidate late Saturday night. The Central Committee’s decision came after two rounds of voting, pitting Nyussi against the current prime minister, two former prime ministers, and the present agriculture minister.
As Frelimo’s chosen candidate, Nyussi will now face the candidates from the two opposition parties, Renamo and the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), in the presidential elections scheduled for 15 October 2014. Nyussi is all but certain to win in these elections, with Frelimo remaining in power for the foreseeable future.
Notably, Nyussi was not considered a strong candidate when first proposed as part of the original three “pre-candidates” chosen by former Frelimo general secretary Filipe Paunde in late 2013. However, he won over the Frelimo elite during subsequent meetings in early 2014.
Paunde’s controversial move to select only Guebuza loyalists—namely PM Alberto Vaquina, Agricultural Minister Jose Pacheco, and Nyussi—as pre-candidates led to internal party fighting and ultimately Paunde’s resignation as general secretary last week. Despite this infighting, Nyussi and the other two Paunde-chosen pre-candidates remained on the ballot with the addition of former PMs Luisa Diogo and Aires Ali. The five-person race was not decided until a second runoff election pitted Nyussi against the independent Diogo, who was supported by a Frelimo faction seeking greater transparency and less corruption in the post-Guebuza era.
Nyussi’s selection will likely appease former revolutionary generals from his native province of Cabo Delgado. The generals still have a great deal of influence over the politics of Northern Mozambique, where huge reserves of oil and natural gas have been discovered. Moreover, Nyussi’s win also all but cements President Guebuza’s continued control of Mozambican politics post-2015.
The president currently controls a large portfolio of business interests throughout Mozambique, and is heavily involved in the extractive services industry both directly and through family connections. Had one of the anti-Guebuza candidates won in the party elections, investor uncertainty would have greatly increased—with corruption trials, contract nullification, and higher capital gains taxes all likely outcomes of a new Frelimo. However, with Nyussi likely to win the presidential election in October, Guebuza will remain in control, maintaining the status quo from behind the scenes.
Frelimo and Renamo against MDM with new election laws
Despite the ongoing conflict between Frelimo and the former rebel group-cum-opposition political party Renamo, the two parties seemed to have agreed that the new emerging MDM party is a mutual threat. As a result, in mid-February the two parties aligned temporarily, passing a series of election reforms that will benefit both Frelimo and Renamo to the detriment of the nascent MDM party. The new laws will give Frelimo and Renamo more power in the National Elections Committee (CNE) and greater oversight at the polls.
MDM was created in 2009, when Daviz Simango split from Renamo due a personal conflict with Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. Since its creation, though, it has remained only a small player in Mozambican politics. However, when Renamo boycotted the November 2013 municipal elections, MDM emerged as a new significant contender picking up four municipalities: Beira, Quelimane, Nampula and Gurué. Many of these municipalities are former Renamo strongholds.
As a result of these wins, Renamo and Frelimo have come out together strategically against MDM, but for vastly different political reasons. Renamo’s interests against MDM are clear enough, with MDM likely to take away votes from the incumbent opposition party.
Frelimo, however, is playing the long game with the passing of the new election laws. Due to the recent violent conflict between Renamo and Frelimo, it is possible that Renamo will slowly lose political relevance in Mozambique over the coming years, barring a large shift of course in its political behavior. By aligning now against MDM through these election rule changes, Frelimo guarantees that it will have greater power over elections should MDM’s significance outpace Renamo’s in future elections.