MAPUTO, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Mozambique will hold elections on Oct. 15 in the first test of a landmark peace deal signed in August that put an end to decades of violence between the two main political parties.
The governing Frelimo party and opposition Renamo fought a civil war that killed about 1 million people before a ceasefire put an end to the worst of the bloodshed in 1992.
While Frelimo and Renamo still dominate elections, a smaller party - the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) - has shaken up the landscape in recent years. The party, a breakaway faction of Renamo, has the potential to split the vote in some provinces.
Here are the presidential candidates standing for the three parties, as well as for the Action Party of the United Movement for Integral Salvation (AMUSI), another smaller party.
Frelimo’s candidate, 60-year-old incumbent President Filipe Nyusi, came to power in the last election in 2014, after taking over from former president Armando Guebuza. In that election, he won 57% of the vote - a sharp decline in support for Frelimo.
A veteran of the party that has ruled Mozambique since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, Nyusi held the position of defence minister from 2008 to 2014.
Since taking office, Nyusi has presided over a debt crisis that upended the economy, the rise of a low-level Islamist insurgency in the country’s north and a further deterioration in Frelimo’s share of the vote at municipal elections last year.
However, his term in office has also seen the agreement of a formal peace settlement with Renamo and progress towards the development of massive offshore gas projects with the potential to transform one of Africa’s least developed nations.
Hailing from the gas-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado, Nyusi, an engineer and son of civil war veterans, promised to deliver peace when he announced his bid for re-election in 2017.
Running for Renamo is Ossufo Momade, 58, an experienced former fighter who was close to the party’s long-time leader Afonso Dhlakama, who died in 2018.
Momade does not command the same popularity as the much-loved Dhlakama, who was at the helm for most of the war against Frelimo and whose personality shaped the party’s image.
Where Dhlakama bound the military and political wings of the party together, Momade faces a breakaway faction of Renamo fighters that has been staging attacks in the party’s historic strongholds and wants him to resign.
Unlike Dhlakama, Momade has spent much of his time in parliament, and some analysts see him as someone who may be less likely to resort to violence, as he draws much of his legitimacy from the August peace deal.
He is the first Muslim to lead one of Mozambique’s main political parties and a member of the large Makua ethnic group, which could give him an advantage in some northern provinces.
MDM’s candidate is Daviz Simango, a former Renamo politician who founded the party after Renamo refused to name him as its candidate in 2009 elections - when he survived an alleged assassination attempt and ran for president for the first time.
A former civil engineer, he serves as the popular mayor of Mozambique’s fourth-largest city, Beira.
MDM has never won even 10% of the presidential vote.
But after breaking away from Renamo, Simango, 55, has been credited with tapping into public anger over a lack of dividends for ordinary Mozambicans from a flood of mining and energy investment pouring into a region mired in poverty.
Mario Albino, who heads up AMUSI, is the only person on the ballot without a seat in parliament.
Albino founded AMUSI in the northeastern province of Nampula, where he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of its capital last year. The party is a breakaway of the MDM. (Reporting by Emma Rumney; editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo)