Mozambique prepares for elections

Ruling Frelimo party expected to win

Election campaigns have drawn to a close in Mozambique as the country prepares to elect a new parliament and president on 15 October.

The candidate of the ruling Frelimo party, the 55-year-old former defence minister Filipe Nyusi, is expected to win the presidential race ahead of his main challengers, veteran Renamo opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama and Daviz Simango of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

In addition to electing a new president, the country's 10 million voters will select a new 250-seat parliament and members of 10 provincial assemblies.

This is the fifth presidential election since the end of Mozambique's civil war, a brutal 15-year conflict which resulted in one million deaths and ended in 1992.

Nyusi's Fremlino has governed Mozambique since independence from Portugal in 1975 but its leader and incumbent Mozambican president Armando Guebuza is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term of office. Over the years Frelimo has faced persistent accusations of corruption and reserving state jobs and business contracts for its members, and its current presidential candidate has enjoyed a well-resourced election campaign. If elected Nyusi promises to upgrade the agricultural sector, tackle youth unemployment and redistribute wealth.

His main opponent is Dhlakama, the 61-year-old former rebel leader who is better known to voters than Nyusi. Dhlakama only emerged from hiding on 4 September after two years on the run, and signed a landmark peace deal with Guebuza in Maputo the next day. The deal between the government and the rebels ended a two-year insurgency that led to scores of deaths in central Mozambique and damaged the country's tourism and mining industries.

Dhlakama, who has lost every election to Frelimo since the end of the civil war, has pledged greater equality for Mozambicans, promising residents of coal-rich areas that they will benefit from resources being extracted there.

The third main candidate is Davis Simango, a 51-year-old former Renamo member who founded the MDM in 2009. The party has since become an emerging political force and has mayors in four cities, mostly wrested from Frelimo in municipal polls last year. Simango himself has been mayor of Beira, the country's second city located in the central Sofala province, for over a decade – first for Renamo and later as an independent before forming the MDM.

Simango promises to tackle social and economic development and employment, and is gaining support from the country's growing middle-class and younger voters. Simango received 8.6 per cent in the 2009 presidential election and analysts believe the MDM could make gains in the parliamentary vote this time around.

All candidates face voter demands to redistribute some of the vast wealth being generated by the country's burgeoning gas and oil developments in the north. Despite the rapid economic growth most of the 25-million population live in poverty.

Whoever wins the election is expected to preside over the major coal and offshore gas projects which have potential to generate billions of dollars for Mozambique.

The election campaign has been relatively peaceful although there have been some skirmishes between Frelimo and the MDM supporters in the north and south of the country. Election observers have been sent from the European Union (EU), the US-based Carter Center, the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Police have urged voters to leave polling stations immediately after casting their ballot.