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Moz's ruling party meets to pick next leader

28 February 2014, 11:36

Matola - Members of Mozambique's ruling party gathered on Thursday to pick a new leader, likely the country's next president, amid signs incumbent Armando Guebuza may struggle to impose his candidate of choice.

Frelimo members began four days of deliberations outside the capital Maputo, as an internal rebellion over Guebuza's three "pre-selected" candidates bubbled to the surface.

Guebuza, 71, has led Mozambique since 2005, but he will step down at elections later this year, having served his maximum two terms in office.

Frelimo - a formerly Marxist-Leninist but now avowedly capitalist party - has won every election since Mozambique's civil war ended 21 years ago, and is expected to do so again in October.

Guebuza is set to continue as head of the party and had hoped to install Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco or Defence Minister Filipe Nyussi as his successor as president.

Frelimo officials announced late last year the party would only consider the three Guebuza loyalists as possible presidential candidates.

But in opening remarks on Thursday he said other candidates would also be considered after fierce campaigning by a powerful faction loyal to previous president Joaquim Chissano.

"The pre-candidates will be enlarged when we come to analysing proposals for candidacies and those candidates presented will also be included in this group," he said.

Weaker position

At least 60 senior Frelimo members applied to have former prime minister Luisa Diogo's name formally included on the list of candidates, according to independent Mozambican daily O Pais.

Around 33% of Mozambicans would vote for the Barclay's Mozambique executive, according to a recent Nova Global Research poll, making the prime minister Guebuza sacked the most popular candidate polled.

Former Frelimo secretary general, Manuel Tome, former finance minister and SADC chief Thomas Salomao, former Maputo mayor Eneas Comiche and another ex-prime minister, Aires Ali, have all been mentioned as possible nominees.

"Guebuza is definitely in a weaker position", than he was, according to UK-based political analyst Joseph Hanlon.

"After two terms you simply become isolated," Hanlon said adding, "he surrounded himself with weak advisers".

While Guebuza garnered 75% of the vote in the 2009 presidential polls, his handling of a bloody insurgency by a revived rebel movement has brought criticism.

Frelimo's unexpectedly poor showing in recent municipal polls saw it lose three provincial capitals to the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) and also hurt Guebuza.

"Frelimo is going to win these elections no matter what happens, but they would rather not have a close election," Hanlon told AFP.

Fierce criticism

Graca Machel, widow of liberation leader Samora Machel, caused the first upset of what could be dramatic meetings of the secretive party in her address.

Speaking just after Guebuza, Machel proposed that founding leaders who are no longer part of its highest decision-making body should be allowed to take part in debates.

The meeting to choose the de facto next president was "sufficiently decisive in determining the future of the party and the future of our country" to allow veterans to air their views, she said.

Frelimo founders like former information minister Jorge Rebelo have been sidelined after fierce criticism of its leadership.

Machel is still an influential figure in Frelimo, and was part of the lobby to include other candidates to the presidential list.

She wore black, still in mourning of her second husband, former South African president Nelson Mandela, who died on 5 December.

Frelimo is expected to announce its decision on this weekend.



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