Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Mozambique

Period of democratic transition: 1994
Pro-democracy civic movement: not present

After independence from Portugal in 1975, Samora Machel led the ruling Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the Marxist-Leninist government until his death in a plane crash in 1986. Joaquim Chissano succeeded him as both president and FRELIMO party leader. During this time, Mozambique has also been engulfed by a brutal civil war between FRELIMO and the rebel Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), which has claimed the lives of over 600,000 people since independence.

In 1990, Chissano made moves toward multiparty democracy when he approved a new constitution that allowed for nonviolent political opposition, freedom of expression and belief, greater associational rights, and an independent judiciary. However, Mozambique's transition to electoral democracy was made possible chiefly through the internationally brokered peace accord signed by both FRELIMO and RENAMO in October 1992. The peace accord followed a series of negotiations between the leaders of the two parties, both frequently reluctant to make concessions. However, once signed, the peace accord established the replacement of warring factions with political parties and guaranteed a series of civil liberties, an independent judiciary, a unified armed force, and the repatriation of refugees, internally displaced persons, and former combatants. The international brokers also managed to get both parties to agree to an October 1994 election date. With the participation of more than 90 percent of Mozambique's registered voters, the legislative and presidential elections took place as scheduled and saw a victory for FRELIMO and Chissano. The elections were judged a resounding success by the international community, despite a brief but aborted preelection boycott called by RENAMO accusing FRELIMO of electoral fraud. While RENAMO did not win the presidential polls, they were able to capture 112 out of 250 seats in the Parliament.

Subsequent elections have evidenced increasing political maturity in Mozambique, though FRELIMO continues to inordinately dominate the country's political system.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.