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Maputo, Mozambique - The Mozambican government has said it plans to stick to a schedule for elections later this year and in 2014 even though the main opposition party warns it will boycott the process.
Jose Pacheco, the government's head of negotiations with the opposition, said Monday that elections will be held whether or not the opposition Renamo group participates. Municipal elections are scheduled for November 20, and presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held on Oct. 15 next year.
The governing Frelimo party and Renamo disagree over the composition of the state elections panel amid fears that a two-decade peace between the two sides is fraying. Earlier this year, deadly clashes broke out between Renamo fighters and security forces in central Sofala province. The unrest has unsettled some investors seeking opportunities in the fast-growing economy.
After winning independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique fell into a devastating war between Frelimo, then a Marxist government, and the Renamo rebels, who were backed by neighboring South Africa's apartheid government.
In the current dispute, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has said he won't stand in the presidential vote unless the electoral law is changed to address what alleged bias against his party. The head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, said his group wants “parity” in membership of electoral bodies as a way of guaranteeing fair elections.
The Frelimo-dominated parliament rejected the Renamo demand in December, and Pacheco, the government negotiator, said the opposition's proposal is unacceptable.
“The elections will go ahead as planned,” said Pacheco, who is also agriculture minister. “Mozambique cannot be mortgaged to citizens who do not want to look at Mozambican reality constructively.”
The government wants Renamo's security force to disarm, but that issue is also in a deadlock. Dhlakama, the Renamo leader, has threatened unrest if the government does not compromise, but Jose Mandra, the deputy interior minister, said security forces are on alert to thwart any disturbances.
Some figures in smaller opposition groups have accused the government and Renamo of excluding other segments of society from their negotiations.