* Defence minister Filipe Nyusi to run in Oct 15 election
* President Guebuza seen seeking to retain influence
* Frelimo faces opposition and security challenges
* New president should preside over resource-led boom
By Manuel Mucari
MAPUTO, March 2 Mozambique's ruling Frelimo
party early on Sunday picked Defence Minister Filipe Nyusi, a
close ally of current two-term President Armando Guebuza, to be
its candidate for an election in October that will choose the
country's next leader.
Frelimo's Central Committee voted by a two-thirds margin for
Nyusi, 56, after an internal debate in which Guebuza loyalists
beat off a challenge from a rival group backing former Prime
Minister Luisa Diogo to be the candidate.
Whoever wins the Oct. 15 vote is expected to help bring to
fruition major coal and offshore natural gas investment projects
that have the potential to bring billions of dollars to a nation
that was in ruins two decades ago after a long civil war.
Buoyed by accelerating foreign investment, Mozambique's
economy is forecast to grow by up to 8.3 percent this year from
7 percent in 2013, according to the IMF, which calls it "one of
the most dynamic economies in Sub-Saharan Africa".
Guebuza, now 71, has served two terms as Mozambique's
president and under the constitution cannot stand again.
But he holds the presidency of Frelimo, a former liberation
movement which has ruled since Mozambique's independence from
Portugal in 1975, and if Nyusi wins in October, Guebuza's strong
influence over the affairs of government will be assured.
"Guebuza will retain a lot of power initially," Joseph
Hanlon, a senior lecturer at Britain's Open University and an
expert on Mozambique, told Reuters. He said that out of three
candidates pre-selected by Frelimo's pro-Guebuza political
commission, Nyusi was most closely dependent on the president.
A northerner whose family was involved in the independence
struggle, Nyusi graduated as an engineer from a military academy
in then-Czechoslovakia in 1990, just before the break-up of the
He served as a senior administrator in Mozambique's state
railways before later becoming defence minister.
Frelimo has dominated Mozambique politics since the
introduction of multiparty politics and a market economy in
1990, repeatedly defeating the main opposition party Renamo, its
old foe from the 1975-92 civil war, in one-sided elections.
Over the last year, the ruling party has faced a renewed
armed insurgency from Renamo, whose leader Afonso Dhlakama
accuses Guebuza of monopolising economic and political power.
Since April last year and up to early this year, Renamo
partisans carried out raids on police and military posts in
parts of central and southern Mozambique and ambushed vehicles
on the country's main north-south highway, killing several dozen
people, disrupting traffic and causing cancellations in the
country's tourism industry.
These security worries and a spate of criminal kidnappings
of wealthy individuals have cast some uncertainty on otherwise
bright prospects for a resource-led boom involving investors
like Brazil's Vale, London-listed Rio Tinto,
Italy's Eni and U.S. oil firm Anadarko.
Frelimo is also challenged by a newer opposition party, the
Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), which includes Renamo
dissidents and scored gains in Nov. 20 municipal elections,
winning control of several major cities outside Maputo.
Earlier this year, apparently pressured by the raids and
MDM's showing in the municipal polls, Frelimo agreed to Renamo
demands to expand the electoral commission, whose composition
critics said favoured the ruling party.
After boycotting the November local vote, Renamo is expected
to contest the October elections, as will MDM.
Guebuza and his government also face growing criticism from
international donors for not doing enough to stamp out
corruption and over priorities in its anti-poverty strategy and
questions of financial transparency.
An anti-Guebuza camp in the Frelimo Central Committee is led
by former President Joaquim Chissano who made peace with Renamo
in 1992. Chissano's group backed former premier and ex-finance
minister Diogo as the party's presidential choice.
Graca Machel, who was married to Mozambique's late
independence president Samora Machel and is also the recent
widow of South Africa's anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, is
a member of the Chissano faction and supported Diogo for the