afrol News, 10 December - The Central Committee of the Mozambican ruling party Frelimo today announced that President Joaquim Chissano would not be a candidate in the 2004 elections. The President confirms the decision.
In a Frelimo press release the Central Committee confirms it had decided this "at the expressed will of its comrade, President Joaquim Chissano, not wanting to stand candidate again at the presidential elections of 2004." The decision was taken at an extraordinary meeting of the committee this night.
Frelimo holds Chissano's decision was to be considered as of "elevated dignity, political consciousness by a great statesman with a vision of the future for both his people and his country." The committee thus accepted the President's decision to retire. President Chissano had earlier announced he would not be a candidate in 2004, saying, "People do have the right to retire at the age of 65."
Chissano originally told his party he did not intend to run for a third term already in May, though many analysts held this statement to be a move to provoke a popular demand for his candidature. The Central Committee also followed up with a petition to make Chissano stand candidate again.
Chissano, wanting "to find out whether a substantial majority of the population, not just of Frelimo, wanted him to run again," thus caused some confusion to whether he was serious about his announcement. This night's new statement by the committee however seems to confirm that Chissano's decision is final.
A third presidential term would be against the Mozambican Constitution, and Chissano had told the Frelimo he had taken his decision "out of respect for the democratic process." Mozambique thus avoids the constitutional crisis neighbouring Zambia, Malawi and Namibia are experiencing or are set to experience.
Chissano, showing political sportsmanship, announced his party needed to find another younger candidate to fulfil the aim of "making Mozambique a more prosperous country." He further maintains the decision was not taken by him alone, but "collectively within the party," underlining the democratic processes working with Frelimo.
Afonso Dlakhama, president of the main opposition party Renamo, earlier had stated his surprise by Chissano's fair play, considering it "bad news". The Renamo leader made it clear that his party, which earlier had been involved in a civil war against Frelimo, knew what it had in Chissano. "Who will substitute him?" asked a worried Dlakhama.
Frelimo is set to elect a new presidential candidate, supposedly to be made at the next Frelimo Congress in June next year. Although there are no candidates yet, Maputo analysts have mentioned Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, the former Mozambican first lady, Graça Machel and the governor of central Sofala province, Felicio Zacarias, renown for his campaigns against corruption.
Joaquim Chissano has functioned as Mozambican President since 1986, when his predecessor Samora Machel was killed in a plane crash. Chissano was first elected democratically in 1994, after the warring Frelimo and Renamo reached a peace agreement. He was re-elected for another five-year-term in December 1999.
Under Chissano, the Mozambican society has seen its greatest advances. Peace and reconstruction were introduced. Mozambique developed from a Marxist dictatorship to a pluralist society within short time, a fact underlined by Chissano's wish not to bend the Constitution by bidding his third term. The last years have also seen an economic boom, the GDP growth in 2001 only expected to reach 14,8 percent.
Opposition leader Dlakhama, who still claims the 1999 elections were rigged, however holds the situation is fragile. Dlakhama claims only Chissano has been able to "put up with the wars of the radicals, ... of the orthodox within Frelimo," a group he claims wants to bring Frelimo back to its Marxist roots, in conflict with Renamo.
Analysts claim Chissano's chances in the 2004 elections would not have been the best anyway. Although Mozambique has achieved a tremendous development under Chissano's rule, ordinary Mozambicans had noted little of the economic development. On the contrary, ordinary Mozambicans had fell victims to a speedily rising criminality over the last years.
Sources: Based on Frelimo, press reports and afrol archives