Mozambique votes in high-stakes election

Mozambican election staff and materials are transported to remote areas of the country ahead of Tuesday's election, in Chongue, Gaza Province, southern Mozambique, on Monday. -Reuters

MAPUTO - Mozambicans voted on Tuesday in an election that could test a fragile two-month-old peace deal between the ruling Frelimo party and its old civil war foe turned opposition rival Renamo.

The presidential, legislative and provincial polls are widely expected to extend Frelimo's decades-long rule over the southern African nation that is set to become one of the world's main gas exporters.

But Renamo is hoping to use electoral changes agreed in the peace pact to win control of its traditional heartlands in central and northern provinces for the first time since the civil war ended in a truce in 1992.

Rights groups and analysts have warned there could be unrest if it fails to make those gains.

"Mozambique has chosen peace," President Filipe Nyusi said after casting his ballot at a school in the capital Maputo. He praised Mozambicans for deciding their destiny through elections and urged people to go to the polls peacefully.

Carlos Alberto, a 22-year-old student waiting to vote at the same secondary school said he wanted to see parliament hold the executive to account and push through promised reforms in education, work, housing and other areas.

"We vote and then nothing happens," Alberto said. "We need to make some changes."

A corruption scandal over government borrowing has hit the economy and damaged Nyusi's popularity.

A low-level Islamist insurgency in the north, on the doorstep of billion-dollar gas projects being developed by oil majors including Exxon and Total, has also taken the shine off Nyusi's presidency and threatens security longer term.

Most of Mozambique's 13 million registered voters were born after Frelimo came to power in 1975, when the country won independence from Portuguese colonial rule. -Reuters