Mozambique goes to the polls

Election authorities to go ahead with polls despite threat of violence

Mozambicans cast their votes in local elections on 20 November amid an escalation of political violence that threatens voter participation. Voters will be asked to elect mayors and local assembly members across 53 Mozambican municipalities, ahead of presidential elections next October.
Opposition party Renamo denies allegations it plans to disrupt the elections, despite repeated threats to do so over the last year. Renamo has not registered for the polls, calling for reform of election laws to allow equal representation on election bodies over claims that the ruling Frelimo party steals votes.

An opposition party called the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) hopes to take advantage of Renamo's absence from the ballot papers and is fielding candidates in all 53 municipalities.
Renamo rebels have been engaging in deadly clashes with government forces in the central province of Sofala since late October, after pulling out of a 20-year old peace deal. The growing instability has prompting local and international fears of a return to civil war, two decades after the peace deal was signed in 1992.

The violence has also had an impact on the country's booming economy, causing an exodus of foreign residents as well as concern among international investors in the country's crucial coal and gas sectors.
The guerillas returned to violence following a government-backed ambush on the camp of their leader Afonso Dhlakama who evaded capture and remains on the run.

Turn out is traditionally low in Mozambican elections, particularly in municipal polls, held a year in advance of national and presidential elections. Less than half the number of registered voters showed up to vote during the November 2008 municipal elections, in which Frelimo won all but one municipality.