Mozambican officials get close look at mayoral race

August 05, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Much like visitors who gawk at fish in the National Aquarium, a delegation of Mozambique politicians came to Baltimore yesterday to observe the city's newest exhibit: the 1999 mayor's race.

The eight African officials are guests of the National Democratic Institute, a Washington agency created to foster world democracy. The contingent, which included two elections commissioners, spent a day with three of Baltimore's leading mayoral candidates, getting a front-row seat to what has become a turbulent campaign involving 27 candidates.

Although the eastern African nation gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, it had a single-party government until 1990. The group is preparing for Mozambique's second two-party election in December and called yesterday's glimpse into the Baltimore contest a welcome preview.

The group began its day with a visit to the office of former East Baltimore City Councilman Carl F. Stokes, whose supporters explained the fund-raising process.

Mozambique political campaigns are publicly funded, though people outside the nation may contribute.

Winning the Sept. 14 primary in Baltimore will cost the victorious candidate about $1 million, the mayoral hopefuls say.

NDI hosts jokingly acknowledged that the campaign finance system in the United States might not be something Mozambicans should take home.

The group enjoyed seeing the role of the U.S. press. Mozambique's newspapers are operated by the state, which pressures journalists who might criticize the government. The Baltimore campaign has been full of coverage of candidate troubles that has led to protests of the media.

The visitors particularly liked how the American media reveal campaign contributors.

"The role of the press to ensure free and fair elections is important here," said Dr. Chico Francisco of the Renamo party.

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