Good afternoon. As the saying goes, it's the hope that kills you. Many people had been hoping that the re-run local elections that took place yesterday in four towns would be conducted more fairly than last time (although this newsletter suggested otherwise). After all, the Constitutional Council, the court that ordered the elections held on 11 October to be repeated, did so because it acknowledged that the previous elections in those places had been ruined by fraud (despite turning a blind eye to fraud elsewhere). The entire election was being re-run in the town of Marromeu, and in selected polling stations at Gurué, Nacala and Milange.
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But opposition activists who showed up at polling stations yesterday discovered that, contrary to expectations, the same staff as last time were in place. The electoral authorities had promised to remove from their posts people found to have manipulated the vote last time, such as, for example, polling station presiding officers who refused to sign results sheets. But in the end, nothing was done. It was expected meanwhile that all the same office staff at the National Elections Commission and the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration would remain in place, although they undoubtedly helped to coordinate the fraud last time.
And so all the tricks carried out in October were repeated. Presiding officers at polling stations (who are frequently supporters and activists of ruling party Frelimo) refused to approve the counting of votes when it looked like opposition party Renamo was winning. Attempts were made to stuff ballot boxes with ballot papers filled in in favour of Frelimo. Voters from outside the polling areas were brought in to vote. The police helped by arresting people trying to protest about fraud, and several people were shot, including one man whose face was grazed by a police bullet. It is pure luck that nobody was killed. Electoral officials have declared Frelimo the winner in all four towns, although election observers already say that Renamo got more votes in Marromeu at least. Of the 41 results sheets that were supposed to be provided at the election in Marromeu, 20 are understood to have gone missing. The elections have been repeated, and so has the fraud.