The Movimento Democratico de Moçambique (MDM), the country’s third largest party, has officially endorsed the Renamo candidate in the second round of the mayoral by-election in Nampula, the largest city in northern Mozambique.
The decision to back Paulo Vahanle was made by the MDM’s Nampula provincial party on Tuesday morning, and confirmed by the national party’s political commission later in the day, Linette Olofsson, the party’s head of external relations, told Zitamar News.
According to Olofsson, Tuesday’s decision to support Vahanle was taken “firstly as it is a brother opposition party, and secondly because we believe [the candidate]meets the conditions to continue the work that was being done by the MDM.” The Frelimo candidate, “might have a good programme, but he didn’t convince our members and supporters, who will be governed by the winner,” she said.
However, the endorsement of is not necessarily a sign of wider cooperation between the two parties.
Olofsson said the MDM has “not yet thought how we’re going to act regarding coalitions” in the nationwide municipal elections in October, as the party’s current focus is on opposing constitutional changes proposed by Renamo and Frelimo which would end the direct election of mayors.
MDM and Renamo have never faced each other in municipal elections before, and there has only been one other second round election in Mozambique’s history – in Nacala, in 2008.
Nampula’s second round election will be held on 14 March between the candidates of Renamo and Frelimo, to replace Mahamudo Amurane, the MDM mayor who was assassinated in October. In the first round, the MDM candidate won less than 10% of the votes. Frelimo’s Amisse Cololo came top with 44.5%, not enough for an outright victory, while Vahanle won 40.3% of the valid votes.
The MDM was formed by Daviz Simango after he won the Beira mayoralty in 2008 as an independent candidate, having been barred by Renamo from running for a second term as that party’s candidate.
The second round in Nampula could be the last time that a mayor of a municipality is directly elected in Mozambique, if the joint Frelimo-Renamo proposal – which will start being discussed in parliament on Wednesday – is approved and the country moves to a system where mayors are appointed by the municipal assembly.
A similar system has been proposed for provincial governors to be selected by provincial assemblies, and – from 2024 onwards – for district administrators to be selected by elected district assemblies.
The proposal to end mayoral elections is however under attack from the MDM and from legal experts including Teodato Hunguana, a former minister of justice and a former judge on the Constitutional Council, Mozambique’s highest body in matters of constitutional law.
Hunguana wrote in Tuesday’s edition of O País newspaper that cancelling direct mayoral elections would “transfer the ownership of sovereignty, which would cease to reside in the people and would instead reside in the parties.”
Hunguana said that direct mayoral elections cannot be taken away even through a referendum, as has been argued by others. However, he said that if parties named their candidate for mayor ahead of the assembly election, that could comply with the country’s constitution.
According to Olofsson, the MDM is “preparing a petition to submit to parliament so that the municipal elections [this year]are not run under the new legislation.
“The elections were called under the old legislation, so it doesn’t make sense that they’d be run in another way,” Olofsson told Zitamar.
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