Vote manipulation and violence, including by police, has dominated the repeated local elections held in four towns in Mozambique yesterday, according to extensive reports from media and election observers.
Reports of the vote suggest that the same tactics used all over the country to manipulate vote results in favour of ruling party Frelimo in the original elections of 11 October were repeated this time, despite a promise by electoral authorities to remove from their posts staff who were found to have carried out illegal behaviour last time. In fact, in the town of Gurué if not elsewhere, staff accused of wrongdoing last time were seen counting the votes again.
Although the polls closed less than 24 hours ago, electoral authorities have already issued preliminary results giving victory to Frelimo in all four towns. However, election observers at NGO Sala de Paz said that, according to its parallel vote count, opposition party Renamo got more votes in Marromeu. Parallel vote counts in the other three towns could not be obtained by the time of publication.
A full re-run of the municipal election was carried out in Marromeu, Sofala province, and a partial re-run at selected polling stations in the towns of Gurué and Milange, both in Zambézia province, and Nacala-Porto in Nampula province. The votes took place on the orders of the Constitutional Council, which ruled that the previous election results there were invalid due to irregularities.
According to Sala de Paz, the votes in all four municipalities were marked by ballot-stuffing, violence, and shootings and intimidation by police.
In Marromeu, preliminary and disputed official results say Frelimo got 55.2% of the vote, Renamo 39.8% and opposition party Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) 3.9%. Sala de Paz said it was concerned by remarks made by the district director of the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration, who said that he did not understand why the local election was being repeated there. The Constitutional Council, the court with the final word on election results, ordered the election to be repeated as it found that the previous result was invalid due to irregularities. Sala de Paz added that there was malpractice and violence before, during and after the voting period.
After polls closed, broadcaster STV reported that 16 presiding officers abandoned their posts at polling stations, meaning that the counting of votes had to stop. The move was allegedly intended to prevent Renamo from winning. Two opposition activists were arrested when they tried to enforce the invalidation of leftover ballot papers, the Lusa news agency reported, a normal practice intended to prevent ballot-stuffing after polls close. Also in Marromeu, a police officer was arrested for beating a Frelimo delegate, and MDM supporters were accused of doing the same, according to broadcaster VOA.
In Gurué, preliminary official results gave victory to Frelim with 62.17% share of the vote. Opposition party New Democracy was given 31.83%, Renamo 3.26% and MDM 2.74%. Five people were admitted to hospital yesterday after being injured during the vote, including one who was shot by police, according to broadcaster TV Sucesso. Police also fired shots to disperse people who were attacking two men suspected of trying to use pre-completed ballot papers, according to newspaper O País. As night fell, police fired again to disperse crowds from polling stations, news agency Lusa said. Some voters claim they were prevented from voting. According to an elections bulletin published by NGO the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) and the More Integrity coalition of election observers, eight polling station staff who were accused of manipulating the vote count in Gurué in October were selected for the fresh election this time, including a secretary of a polling table (mesa de voto) whose results were specifically annulled by the Constitutional Council.
In Nacala-Porto, where Frelimo has been officially declared the winner with 90% of the vote, voting took place peacefully, Lusa said, quoting local media reports. However Raúl Novinte, Renamo mayor of Nacala and its mayoral candidate, said that the results in Nacala-Porto were invented, because hardly anybody voted. According to More Integrity and CIP’s election bulletin, the turnout in Nacala was 28.7%. Unlike in the other towns, Renamo’s local leadership said it was boycotting the vote, meaning that it did not send delegates or activists to polling stations.
Preliminary official results have given victory to Frelimo in Milange. According to CIP and More Integrity’s bulletin, the turnout in Milange was 26.7%.