The NIMD programme in Mozambique supports initiatives that contribute to the depolarisation of the political system. It facilitates debates and promotes dialogue at a provincial level as well a tolerance among different political constituencies.
Polarization in the political system diminished
The violent past is still very present, as the personal shared history of the current political leaders shows: the current opposition party leader, Afonso Dhlakama, negotiated with Armando Guebuza as head of the government negotiation team on the peace agreement that concluded the war of destabilization more than 15 years ago. The lack of political dialogue in Mozambique between these two leaders, who will most likely continue to determine politics in Mozambique in the coming years, generates a lack of constructive cooperation within the political party system as such. The two parties perceive each other with extreme distrust and there is only a struggle for power and material gains. In thematic meetings where representatives of both parties do meet, like the meeting on communication of political parties with the media which NIMD organized in 2008, the discussion does not exceed the level of reproachful and quarrelsome remarks.
The polarization has not decreased, but the risk that it will destabilize society has become smaller as the power of RENAMO diminishes. FRELIMO does realize that multi-party democracy without opposition cannot function. The attitude towards RENAMO is ambiguous. They do not want opposition of RENAMO as FRELIMO keeps considering RENAMO as a party that never supported but only hindered development in Mozambique. On the other hand RENAMO opposition is weak, making legitimizing elections harmless for the electoral position of FRELIMO. By at the same time excluding people who explicitly sympathize with RENAMO from governmental positions, the government remains under control of FRELIMO. And as the government delivers, RENAMO looses more and more the sympathy of the Mozambican people.
Political parties involved in the strengthening of the electoral authorities
In 2007 the composition of the National Elections Commission (CNE) was changed reducing the number of members from the political parties and introducing members for civil society. This changing process, which ended with the passing of the new bills in parliament, also included other changes in the electoral law like the abolishment of the 5 % threshold. The process before the passing in parliament was politically highly polarized. And as legitimate and accepted elections are paramount NIMD planned to keep the option open to contribute - if necessary - to the acceptance of the new working methodology by especially RENAMO in 2008. The plan was to organize some workshops for the political parties on and with the electoral authorities like the National Elections Commission (CNE) and the Election Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE). This part of the programme was not implemented due to the fact that there were no major political disputed issues in 2008 after the voters’ registration toward the local elections. In the contact with CNE in 2008 there was also no forthcoming response as they were too much occupied by the management of the electoral process.
Lessons learned by other NIMD programme countries in Africa are applied in Mozambique
Although there is exchange of information on the highest political level between FRELIMO and other ruling parties in the region, it appears that Mozambican politics develops in a rather isolated way, due to the specific colonial history and the fact that the national language is Portuguese. Participation in the regional activities opens up to these regional political developments in the neighbouring countries. However, the political situation of the ‘one party state democracy’ of Mozambique is very different from countries like Kenya, Zambia and Malawi. The Mozambican parties are surprised by the volatility of the political system with splits and floor crossings of these neighbouring countries. They took back the lessons learned in Kenya, not only on the electoral process but also on the role CMD-Kenya played after the elections. In these regional contacts the Mozambican parties could deliver their positive experiences with the new composition of the National Electoral Commission and their system of public financing as Mozambique is one of the few countries in which political parties and the campaigns of presidential candidates are financed by the government..
Report of politicians engaged in exchange visits on lessons learned for their respective parties
High level representatives from RENAMO and FRELIMO participated in two regional NIMD activities: the ESARP Conference in Malawi on 13/14 March and the preparatory ESARP meeting in December in The Hague. In both meetings there were introductions on electoral processes, with Kenya and Zimbabwe as cases to learn from, and an introduction of the Dutch Electoral Commission that showed that trust in the neutrality and capacity of the electoral commission is critical for a well conducted and acceptable electoral process.
Institutional capacity of the political parties enhanced
RENAMO did not give a successful follow-up to the recommendations of the report of the self-assessment that was conducted with support of NIMD in 2006. President Dhlakama did try to re-establish the relationship with the grass roots by visiting several provinces but not successfully as the results of the local elections indicate. The political turmoil in RENAMO in the pre- and post local election period also influenced the support of NIMD for capacity building activities by RENAMO in 2008.
Relations between political parties and civil society improved
Voice and accountability can only be achieved if people are informed and dare to give their opinion on political developments. In 2008 NIMD focused on the grassroots level in the four provinces in the Centre of Mozambique (where RENAMO does have political support). At the grass roots level in these provinces these meetings on politics in Mozambique were a successful first step. Often representatives from political parties and civil society discussed for the first time with each other.
For Mozambique improving women participation in politics is not so much an issue of more women in influential positions. There are several mechanisms in place with the result that Mozambique is one of the African countries with most women in representative positions (35 % of the parliamentarians are women) and in the governmental structure like the female prime minister of Mozambique. Gender policy in Mozambique has to focus on the impact these women (can) have in the decision making process.
Civil society organizations are considered by the political parties as important contributors to the political debate
NIMD facilitated a project of its partner Associacao Mozambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Democracia (AMODE). This Mozambican NGO is active at the decentralized grassroots level. Its objectives are to provide information on the political developments in Maputo to the other regions of Mozambique and to encourage cultural and political debate, dialogue and political tolerance among different political grassroots in Mozambique. The activities in 2008 were the follow-up of a series of debates organized by AMODE in the North of Mozambique before which was also facilitated by NIMD.