Mozambique is a republic. Since independence, the president of the republic has also been the president of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique—Frelimo), the Marxist mass movement/party that led the county to independence from Portugal in 1975. In the same year, a Constitution was formulated which created the People's Assembly as the supreme decision-making body of state and the highest legislative organ of the republic, with no more than 210 seats. Executive power was vested in a Council of Ministers, presided over by the president of the republic and charged with implementation of domestic and foreign policy decisions taken by the People's Assembly.
Frelimo, which ruled the country as the sole political party of the state until the end of civil war in 1992, was formed as a national liberation movement in June 1962 and has had five party congresses in which delegates have decided the political direction of the republic. At the Fifth Party Congress held in July 1989 major discussions took place on the creation of a new Constitution that would drastically change the established political and economic orientation of the republic. The new Constitution was adopted in 1990. This Constitution enshrined the principles of political pluralism and election by secret ballot of a government based on majority rule rather than proportional representation. These changes ultimately paved the way for multiparty politics and the end of the 16-year civil war with Renamo.
Renamo was founded in 1976 by the Rhodesian and Portuguese governments and, from 1980 until 1992, received most of its support from the white minority South African government. According to International Red Cross and Christian relief agencies and a 1988 U.S. State Department Report, the goals of Renamo were to destabilize the country "without regard to a political program." In early 1988, it was conservatively estimated that 100,000 civilians may have been murdered and by the end of the civil war in 1992, over four million people were at risk of death due to food shortages and lack of health care. The Beira Pipeline, which transports oil from the port city of Beira, Mozambique to Zimbabwe, was blown up many times by Renamo.
Elections scheduled for 1993 were delayed until October 1994. Chissano won 53.3% of the vote, while Dhlakama of Renamo won 33.7%. In the presidential and parliamentary elections held in December 1999, Chissano's margin of victory narrowed, when he won 52.3% to Dhlakama's 47.7%. Renamo strengthened its position in Parliament, taking 117 parliamentary seats against 133 for Frelimo.
In May 2001 Chissano announced that he would step down at the end of his mandate in 2004. The run-up to the 2004 national elections saw Frelimo faced with rising disillusionment over crime and cronyism, but with no viable rival party—including Renamo—to challenge it. Speculation was that the next candidate would come from the center or north of country to balance Chissano, Machel, and Mondlane, all of whom were southerners. A rift has developed between conservative factions overall stronger in the party and modernizers, who dominate government. Names put forth were Manuel Tome, secretary-general of Frelimo, Eduardo Mulembue, parliamentary speaker, Armando Guebuza, head of Frelimo parliamentary group, and Pascoal Mocumbi, Prime Minister. Chissano appeared to favor a modernizer and it was possible that a younger leader less compromised would be chosen.