Frelimo and Swapo under threat as voters turn to opposition Namibia Frelimo majority is under threat as Mozambique goes to polls

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The Independent Online
TWO OF southern Africa's newest democracies go to the polls this week. Namibia enters its second day of voting today and in Mozambique presidential and parliamentary ballots will be cast on Friday and Saturday.

The first day of legislative and presidential voting in Namibia, which is the size of Britain and France combined but has a population of just 1.7 million, went off smoothly yesterday, despite internal tensions and President Sam Nujoma's revision of the constitution last year to allow himself a third term in office.

In Mozambique, which has a population of more than 20 million, President Joaquim Chissano's election for a second term seems certain, even though his Frelimo party's majority in parliament is under threat. In both countries, as in South Africa, which lies between them, the long struggle for liberation has yet to be translated into a climate conducive to democracy.

President Nujoma's Swapo (South West African People's Organisation), which led Namibia's 23-year struggle against South African rule, expects a landslide victory, despite its failure to ease poverty in the diamond- rich desert country.

Namibia is battling with about 40 per cent unemployment, widespread poverty and one of the worst HIV-Aids problems in the world. The 70-year- old president, who voted with his 100-year-old mother yesterday, said Swapo would maintain its two-thirds majority, despite the challenge of seven opposition parties and three presidential candidates.

Analysts felt the preparations for the elections, whose final result will be announced on Monday, had been fair. Swapo's expected success is attributed mainly to a low level of political education and powerful loyalty towards the former guerrilla movement.

At the end of campaigning for Mozambique's elections, President Chissano told journalists in the capital, Maputo, that Frelimo was ``expecting a great victory''. In a country attracting huge foreign investment, voters have a choice of two presidential candidates - Mr Chissano, 60, and the Renamo party leader, Afonso Dhlakama. Ten parties and three coalitions are competing in the parliamentary elections.

After Renamo, Frelimo's former civil war rival, formed an alliance with 10 smaller parties, it is possible that Mr Chissano could win the presidency, while Frelimo loses its parliamentary majority. If that happened, said Mr Chissano, he would negotiate with opposition parties in parliament to gain a majority.

There are known to have been many behind-the-scenes manoeuvres between the parties, who were arch enemies in the fighting which began in 1975, soon after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, and ended in 1992.