Shortlist of Frelimo presidential candidates

List comprises prime minister and two government ministers

Mozambique's ruling Frelimo party has released a shortlist of three candidates ahead of the presidential polls on 15 October next year.

The trio comprises three prominent Frelimo members: incumbent prime minister Alberto Vaquina; agriculture minister José Pacheco; and defence minister Felipe Nhusse. It remains unclear when the final Frelimo candidate will be selected in the race to succeed president Armando Guebuza, who by law can not seek a third term of office.

This is the first time that potential candidates have been identified officially since the presidential election date was announced in July. The news has reignited speculation about the possible successor to Guebuza, who has presided over Mozambique since 2005, has dominated Frelimo for decades and is one of the nation's wealthiest individuals.

The announcement comes following the local elections on 20 November to elect mayors and local assembly members across 53 Mozambican municipalities. The results showed that the Frelimo party took all but two seats – Beira and Quelimane – which were won by a new opposition party called the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

Frelimo's presidential shortlist also coincides with an escalation of political violence by Renamo rebels which blame the government for the ambush on the movement's leader Afonso Dhlakama on 21 October.

The attack prompted the immediate cessation of the country's 1992 peace deal, and in the subsequent six weeks the rebels have killed ten people and injured 26, mainly in the central Sofala province, as well as causing concern among international investors in the country's crucial coal and gas sectors.

Following the ambush, Dhlakama went on the run and was not heard of again until he conducted a telephone interview with the editor of weekly newspaper Canal de Mocambique. Dhlakama repeated Renamo's assassination claims and accused Guebuza of being "embarrassed because he didn't succeed” in his mission to kill the rebel leader.