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By Marina Lopes
MAPUTO (Reuters) - Mozambique's Renamo opposition party, the rump of a guerrilla movement that waged a 16-year civil war, threatened on Thursday to obstruct elections next year unless the mineral-rich southern African nation's government reformed electoral laws.
Renamo has repeatedly accused the ruling Frelimo party, its foe in the post-independence civil war that ended in the early 1990s, of rigging elections and says the National Election Committee is stacked in Frelimo's favour.
"No party can participate in elections until we have a law that benefits democracy," Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga said.
The opposition party, which holds 18 percent of National Assembly seats, was prepared to incite nationwide demonstrations to paralyse the electoral process, he added.
Although Renamo has made such threats before, any disruptions to Mozambique's post-war stability are a concern for foreign mining companies keen to exploit some of the world's largest coal and natural gas reserves.
Frelimo denied any meddling in the set-up of elections, and said Renamo was simply trying to buy time because it was ill-prepared to go to the polls.
"The elections are not won through fraud. It is a transparent process," spokesman Damiao Jose said. "The way we see it, they are not ready to participate in the next elections."
Membership of the election commission is currently calculated on the basis of parliamentary representation, putting it firmly in control of Frelimo, which has held a tight grip on power since independence from Portugal in 1975.
Renamo wants the commission to be split equally between itself, Frelimo and the Mozambican Democratic Movement (MDM), another opposition party that has been cashing in on ebbing Renamo support.
"The future commission needs to be equal, to create equal opportunity for all candidates, rather than give supremacy to one of the parties," Renamo's Mazanga said.
Municipal polls are due late next year and tensions have been rising since October when Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama left his headquarters in the second city of Beira for the countryside, where he had his civil war guerrilla base.
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