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Mozambican Voters Poised for Wednesday Elections

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Election officials in Mozambique say they are ready for Wednesday's national elections. Voters are to elect a president, parliament and provincial assemblies in what is seen as an important test for opposition parties.

Election officials have assured Mozambique's nearly nine million registered voters that materials have been distributed to all the country's 13,000 polling centers in time for Wednesday's vote.

Several thousand candidates from 19 political parties have been campaigning for weeks, promising to fight poverty, create jobs, build infrastructure and improve health and education services.

The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, or Frelimo, which led the struggle for independence, has dominated politics for the past 35 years. Its candidate, President Armando Guebuza, is seeking a second, five-year term.

He is being challenged by Afonso Dhlakama of the opposition National Resistance Movement, or Renamo, which fought a 16-year civil war with Frelimo.

Analysts say Renamo has been weakened by a split that led to the formation in March of a new party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement led by Daviz Simango.

Simango is the mayor of the country's second city, Beira. He was expelled from Renamo, but ran for re-election as an independent in municipal elections last year and won.

A political analyst with the Mozambican News Agency, Paul Faubet, says the elections do not appear to be generating much excitement in the capital area, a Frelimo stronghold. But he says the contest is intense in central and northern parts of the country.

"There certainly seems to be great interest in areas of the country that are more competitive, in the most populous provinces, Zambezia and Nampula, where the three candidates put most of their effort," Faubet said.

Professor Gil Lauriciano of Maputo's Institute for International Relations, says 45 year-old Simango is trying to energize young voters, much like U.S. President Barack Obama did in his campaign last year.

"This time, yes, we have this new phenomenon of the youth," he said. " I think we are experiencing some Obama-mania here in Mozambique as well."

He says he hopes Simango's candidacy will boost voter turnout, which fell to 36 percent in national elections five years ago.

The campaign has been marred by isolated incidents of intimidation and violence. And opposition parties have accused the election commission of disqualifying some of their candidates on technical grounds.

But the campaign has been largely violence-free and well-covered in the news media.