Monday, October 19, 2009

On the eve of travel...

Miraculously, I seemed to finish all that needed to be done by 6pm tonight and was allotted some leisure time before our extremely long journey tomorrow. After staring at my packed bags for about six minutes, I sent messages to everyone I knew in the area to come celebrate my trip with me.

I spent the evening at Cass Cafe with friends and family, who all came to share in my excitement. The more people asked to hear what was so unique about Mozambican presidential elections, the more my excitement grew. My mind has been racing since the school year started with to-do lists, make-up midterms and lab reports, and anxieties over shots, with little time to actually comprehend how much my world is about to be turned upside down.

"Your world will be turned upside down" my dear friend Matt said to me tonight. Matt himself spent some time in Malawi and was so excited for my trip he could barely get his travel advice out. I hung on his every word while he told me about Africa, trying to take the bits and pieces from his stories and form them into expectations for Mozambique. But, really, how could I ever know what to expect?

Among the bear-hugs and beers, I could finally say that among this company, I would also be an international traveler. My friends with stories from Norway, Brazil, Ireland, Malawi, Ghana, and Austria all shouted questions at me, ridden with personal advice and anecdotes, and I couldn't help but smile.

I'm going to Africa tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Carrie Manning

One difference I noticed in the difference between Manning and Pitcher is their focus on the international influences on Mozambique. Where I would say, generally, Pitcher is critical of commercial involvement in Mozambique, Manning views donor participation as a partnership.

Most surprising in Carrie Manning’s chapter on Semi-presidentialism is the elite conversations that happen behind closed doors between Frelimo and Renamo after disputed elections. These elite talks, I would argue, exist as checks and balances, not unlike those seen in the American system. It seems the current Mozambican system of elite discussion keeps the peace between these two parties. However, I do wonder, with the presidential position maintaining such complete power after the 1992 peace accords, who does the president answer to? Perhaps this elite conversational power sharing exists as a response to Frelimo’s power monopoly since 1975.

Another thing I find interesting is the political presence of women in parliament in Mozambique. Luisa Diogo has been the Frelimo prime minister under both Joaquim Chissano and Armando Emilio since the 2004 elections. Manning writes, “At least a decade younger than her predecessors, Diogo is the first prime minister not to have been involved directly in the liberation struggle” (Manning 131). Also, Diogo was not a high-ranking official within Frelimo before her appointment as prime minister, as her qualifications lay outside Fremlio. I believe her inclusion shows Frelimo’s shift from an elite group, as seen during the socialist period from 1975-1992, to a party willing to evolve and progress. As Manning states, “She is widely credited with helping to guide Mozambique’s neo-liberal-based economic recovery” (Manning 132).

I would like to ask former President Chissano what made him choose Diogo for appointment, and how did Diogo’s role as prime minister help or hinder Mozambique’s transformation to democracy, and subsequent inclusion in the global market?

-Works Cited-
Manning, Carrie L. The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2002.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now Thats a Democracy of a Different Color!

This past week in Time there was a section with ten questions for Ron Paul. Among the typical questions about his opinions of the American democratic system, constitutionalism, and legalizing marijuana, I came across a question asking whether or not Mr. Paul believed the United States was truly a multiparty state. I was intrigued, because we have been reading Carrie Manning’s The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, which discusses the emergence of Mozambique’s multiparty and semi-presidential system. Ron Paul stated something to the effect of no, he did not believe that the U.S. was a multiparty state because both Democrats and Republicans subscribed to the same way of running things, with heavy corporate influence.

One similarity I noticed while reading was that the way in which Ron Paul had described America’s multiparty system as being strongly influenced by capitalism, while the rise of Mozambique’s multiparty system coincided with the transition from post-colonial socialism to democratic elections, and thus capitalism. It seems, again, that capitalism and democracy do go hand in hand.

Manning discusses Mozambique’s foreign economic dependence also impacting the democratic system by stating that, “...more than 50 per cent of the budget [is] regularly financed by donors” (Manning 135). Furthermore, Mozambique’s shift to democracy (influenced by capitalism and market forces) indebted the country pretty substantially to the World Bank. What happened to Mozambique’s economic autonomy? Did socialism really provide any autonomy when the country was torn by civil war?

Another similarity I noticed was the relationship of the Prime Minister to the President. Here I would agree with the parallel Manning draws to the vice president in the U.S. , as both Frelimo and Renamo have opted to keep the position of president one with rather sprawling powers and entitlements, with the Prime Minister acting as an extension of the President. Perhaps both parties feel strongly that their members will hold the position, and in that case, it would be beneficial to keep the position strong.

However, I do wonder who it is that serves as a check or balance to the president? Who does the elected Mozambican president answer to? The possibility for unchecked power, I would say, is defiantly a downfall to the Mozambican system. In chapter 8 of Manning’s book, she discusses the broad reaching powers of the president, and also the possibility for the losing party to present grievances to the incumbent. Perhaps the evolving constitution of Mozambique acts as a parallel checks and balances found in the U.S.’s system? Manning states, “Formal electoral processes have been consistently accompanied or followed by parallel, informal processes of elite negotiation, which provide a safety valve for political dissatisfaction and partial substitute for formal power sharing” (Manning 134).

I suppose that while looking for similarities between the United States and Mozambique, one could regard these “elite” talks somewhat like what goes on in Washington D.C. when congressional sessions discuss U.S. policies, which I would argue are extremely elite. I certainly have never been included. To which I would quote Manning again: “Interestingly, this triad of Renamo, Frelimo, and international community also permits the continued exclusion of the population from playing a central role in the political process” (Manning 135). Yet another similarity.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the only differences in the State’s brand of democracy, and the Mozambican brand are the titles put on political positions (Parliament vs. Congress? Prime Minster vs. Vice President?), but I would say that democracy with reliance on market forces looks the same, whichever country adopts it.

Manning, Carrie L. The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2002.