Monday, October 5, 2009

It was only three weeks ago that my ADPM class consisted of an enlightening discussion with one of Mozambique’s lead experts – Anne Pitcher. Two days from now, we get another distinct opportunity to speak with Carrie Manning, author of The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post Conflict Democratization, 1992 – 2000 and professor at Georgia State University. So far, we’ve looked at her book and writings on semi-presidentialism. The next step is to gain additional insights from her in person, ones that may not be as easily translated or interpreted through text.

Reading The Politics of Peace in Mozambique, the chapter on the country’s 1999 election was of particular interest. Manning explained that this election was Mozambique’s true first post-transition general election, as the one prior to it focused more on the civil war’s end as opposed to democracy. At first, regardless of its technical difficulties, this election seemed to separate itself from problems normally associated with second elections in Africa – low voter turnout, opposition boycotts, etc. In fact, one of Mozambique’s positive democratic indicators was the symbolism behind the losing party’s contest of its results. Although this introductory information was consistent with other authors’ writings, the rest of the chapter opened my eyes to just how unexpected the 1999 election results were – and just how significant some of the problems that arose because of it became.

Manning wrote that the most surprising aspect of the election was undoubtedly the extremely close race for presidency. Much greater popularity for Joaquim Chissano was expected, partially attributable to his involvement in regional peace initiatives and his selection as the Southern Africa Development Community president. Renamo representative Dhlakama’s only title was “leader of the opposition,” which carried no specific responsibilities or authorities. Although Renamo’s alliance with multiple opposition parties was expected to give it a significant boost in the parliamentary race, its power in the presidential race seemed much more inconsequential than it actually was. In the end, Chissano’s margin of victory was smaller than the total number of ballots represented by polling station tally sheets. Renamo strongly contested the end results, also signifying how much mistrust still lied in the new electoral system.

This idea is similar to one Pitcher expressed when she explained that a common misconception about Renamo is its lack of strength. Although some literature has dismissed Renamo and its supporters as “bandits,” it has unjustifiably done so. Pitcher made it clear Renamo is still legitimate with a large voter base.

However, because a decade has passed since the 1999 election and a new party has since emerged – the Democratic Movement of Mozambique – what are the implications for Renamo’s strength? Will many of its supporters focus their efforts on the new party? Could this election symbolize the demise of Renamo? Also, does Manning predict as close of a race among parties like the one that occurred in 1999? What does this indicate regarding the future of Mozambique’s democracy?

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