In 1994 Mozambique held its first democratic election, which FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) won, and RENAMO (Mozambican National Resistance) became the official opposition. The Mozambican parliament was re-constituted to accommodate the two political parties. Its main tasks are to define new priorities in order to meet the different needs of the country and its people emerging from a long civil war, to create and establish legislation suitable for the new political dispensation, and to monitor the work of the government.
The new Mozambican parliamentary electoral system is based on proportional representation in which voters in their respective constituencies vote for their preferred party, and seats in the legislature are a direct translation of the people’s vote throughout the country.
The unicameral Assembly of the Republic or Assembleia da Republica has 250 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote on a secret ballot to serve five-year terms. The last elections were held on October 28th 2009. FRELIMO won 191, RENAMO 51 and the newly formed MDM (Democratic Movement of Mozambique) 8 seats in parliament. Of the 250 MPs 98 are women (39%). The voter turnout was 44%.
The Mozambican constitution guarantees an important role and constitutional space for parliament. The Assembly of the Republic (AR) is the highest legislative, parliamentary, and monitoring body in Mozambique. It has been functioning within a multi-party system for a relatively short period (since 1994). A number of constraints and limitations impact on its capacity to fully exercise its constitutional responsibilities, as is usually the case in young emerging post-conflict democracies. These include insufficient professional cadre in the parliamentary administration, absence of clear independence of the parliamentary personnel from the state administration, widely varying skills and capacities of members of the Assembly, and limited public comprehension of the role and importance of the parliament.
The Parliament legislates on all basic domestic and foreign policy issues. Among other powers, it must approve the electoral law and laws governing referenda; sanction the suspension of constitutional guarantees and declarations of states of siege or emergency; ratify the appointments of the President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Constitutional Council and the President of the Administrative Tribunal; consider reports from the Council of Ministers and the State Budget and Plan; and define defence and security policies.
The Parliament meets in ordinary session twice a year, opening in March and October, for a total of 90 working days. It meets extraordinarily when convened by the President of the Republic, the Standing Commission or at least one-third of deputies. It can only take decisions when over half its members are present, and over half the members present must vote in favour. The only exception to this is in the case of constitutional amendments, which must be approved by a two-thirds majority. When the alterations are far-reaching the proposal adopted by the Assembly must be submitted to public debate and a referendum.
When a party or coalition has a certain minimum number of deputies it may constitute a Parliamentary Group (Bancada). The Groups have the right to present candidates to the post of President of the Assembly, designate a Vice-President, designate candidates for the Standing Commission and the other Commissions, and make announcements, concluding statements, declarations of vote, protests and counter-protests.