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Mozambique's governing party, the Mozambican Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique: FRELIMO), is scheduled to hold its congress in September, during which President Filipe Nyusi is likely to be confirmed as the party's candidate for the presidential election in 2019.
Outlook and implications
• Despite multiple challenges, which include a debt crisis and a low-level insurgency conflict with RENAMO, President Filipe Nyusi is likely to rally opposing factions within the governing FRELIMO to support his bid for an additional term in office by backing him as candidate for the party in the presidential election in 2019.
• Current peace negotiations with RENAMO are likely to yield an initial agreement over devolution, which Nyusi will use to highlight his peace-making credentials in the run-up to the upcoming poll.
Civil war; Government instability; Policy instability
Sectors or assets
Internal divisions in FRELIMO are a key challenge for President Filipe Nyusi. Indeed, Nyusi's future depends on his ability to control his party's deep-rooted divisions. The internal divisions within FRELIMO continue to represent a major challenge to its ability to retain power in Mozambique. In the run-up to the 2014 elections, the party only succeeded in rallying behind President Nyusi a few months before the polls. While FRELIMO emerged victorious, the prior divisions helped the opposition to gain considerably in strength. FRELIMO's internal divisions traditionally have been based on regional, linguistic, and generational fault lines. Other previously less significant but growing areas of intra-party disagreement relate to the role of the state in the economy and the appropriate level of decentralisation. This last issue is at the core of peace talks between the government and the armed opposition Mozambican National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana: RENAMO). Nyusi, a former defence minister, continues to be backed by a faction of hardliners within FRELIMO who are part of the security establishment, generally from the north of the country and led by former president Armando Guebuza. Opposing the hardliners is a group led by former president Joachim Chissano, which unsuccessfully backed former prime minister Luisa Diogo for the presidency in 2014 and includes senior FRELIMO leaders from the south of Mozambique, such as Graca Machel.
After closing ranks to secure victory in the 2014 presidential election, these two factions are once again in disagreement over two main policy areas: the debt crisis and the armed conflict pitting the government against RENAMO. Chissano's southern faction holds the president and the security establishment responsible for the current debt crisis, attributing this at least in part to companies run by the security services and under the control of former president Armando Guebuza. It also strongly favours a negotiated solution to the current armed conflict. Under the leadership of former president Chissano, this faction signed the General Peace Accords in 1992, which officially brought an end to Mozambique's civil war. By contrast, some hardliners continue to favour a military solution that seeks to defeat RENAMO outright, rather than making concessions on decentralisation in the ongoing peace talks. These compromises could entail a substantial transfer of power and resources from the central government in Maputo to regionally elected officials.
Despite increased scrutiny, nationwide criticism and pressure from international partners and creditors due to the state of public finances and the economy, we assess that, during FRELIMO's September conference, President Nyusi is still likely to secure a mandate to represent the party in the 2019 presidential election. FRELIMO's central committee is heavily geared towards the security elite who fear the outcome of any future potential probes into what caused the current debt crisis. President Nyusi has proved willing to make concessions to his critics by allowing an audit of public finances, seeking to establish the root cause of the debt crisis to continue, although prosecutions are unlikely.
Nyusi has also showed willingness to compromise with RENAMO, showing an approach in line with the stance of FRELIMO's southern faction. IHS Markit assesses that an agreement with RENAMO on decentralisation is very likely prior to the FRELIMO congress in September. Devolution of power is almost certain to lead to RENAMO governing in six central and Northern provinces – Tete, Manica, Sofala, Zambezia, Nampula, and Niassa – where it claims to have won in the October 2014 general election. Such a compromise, and the possible reintegration of RENAMO fighters into the security forces, will continue to be opposed by the hardliners who currently back Nyusi, but are likely to appease his critics from the south and facilitate consolidation around his candidacy for an additional five-year term as president. Government policy towards the key oil and gas industry is unlikely to change as the country continues to gear up for major investments in oil and gas.