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The Legacy of President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique

A South African expert on Mozambique says outgoing president Joaquim Chissano leaves a mostly positive legacy. He will hand over power to the winner of this week’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Businessman Armando Guebuza is the nominee of the ruling party, RENAMO. He faces a strong challenge by Afonso Dhlakama, the long-time leader of the opposition party, FRELIMO.

Neuma Grobbelaar is the deputy director of studies at South African Institute of International Affairs and head of the Business in Africa Research Program. She says Mr. Chissano has presided over one of the highest growth rates in Africa – about eight percent per year. On the other hand, Ms. Grobbelaar says Mozambique’s political institutions are weak; she says the country has evolved into a strong two-party system, but one in which the opposition has had little chance to share power. The political analyst says that’s because Mozambique, like many developing countries, has adopted the winner-takes-all, or “first-past-the-post,” system, in which the opposition has little influence over local and national politics. She notes that although FRELIMO could well win, it would come to power with little experience governing, although it does have limited influence in parliament.

Ms. Grobbelaar notes that there is still a strong authoritarian strain in Mozambican politics and that even the governors of the country’s provinces are appointed by the national government. Nevertheless, under President Chissano, the country is enjoying its third democratic elections since the end of civil war nearly 20 years ago, making Mozambique one of Africa’s most stable emerging democracies.