Mozambican opposition rejects election results, calls for another vote

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Mozambique's main opposition party has rejected the results of last month's national elections, alleging fraud and ballot-stuffing. Official results were released on Wednesday confirming that President Armando Guebuza had won another term in office.

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza
Image: Ricardo Stuckert/PR, Agência Brasil.

The secretary-general of the opposition Renamo Party, Ussufo Momade, announced his party's rejection of the election results, saying there had been widespread fraud. "We do not recognize these elections," he stated. "We demand the cancellation of the results that were just announced and we insist on a new vote."

The National Electoral Commission said Wednesday that Guebuza had received more than 75% of the valid votes cast two weeks ago. "The National Electoral Commission declares that Armando Emilio Guebuza has been elected president of the Republic of Mozambique for five years," the commission stated.

The president's Frelimo Party also won 191 of the 250 seats in parliament. Before the elections, Frelimo had 160 seats and Renamo 90. Frelimo has been in power since 1975, when Mozambique declared independence from Portugal.

Renamo's candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, received 16% of the vote, while the leader of a new party, Daviz Simango of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), received 8%. Sixteen other parties were also in contention for parliament seats, but none of them received more than one percent of the vote.

Frelimo, which has a two-thirds majority in the parliament, has a sufficient number of seats to alter the constitution without support from other parties. There has been some speculation that Frelimo may use this to allow Guebuza to run for a third term - currently, the constitution allows a president to serve only two terms in office.

Senior Frelimo party members, however, promised that Guebuza had no intention of seeking another term. "The majority in parliament will give us more freedom to choose what is best for Mozambican people. Frelimo has always worked on benefit of people. And that is what we will continue to do in the next mandate," said Frelimo election officer Veronica Macamo.

We demand the cancellation of the results that were just announced and we insist on a new vote.

—Ussufo Momade

Soon after the election results were announced, Renamo alleged that there had been widespread ballot-stuffing in some districts, and that its observers had been expelled from others. The MDM also protested, saying ballots had been tampered with at some stations, and produced a cell phone video showing election officials apparently tampering with ballots. The party also made a list of alleged voting irregularities, which was given to media and election observers.

Leading Renamo member Joaquim Marungo said his party will present evidence of the alleged rigging and seek that the results of the vote be annulled. "What we had were no elections because Frelimo is actually a player and a referee at the same time. In our electoral law which was passed in 2007, actually, we were excluded from all major decision bodies like the CNE [National Election Commission," Marungo remarked, as quoted by VOA News.

He also rejected the electoral body's verdict that the poll was credible. "What the CNE is saying is what Frelimo tells them to say. But what the international community didn't know is that those polling station agents were actually recruited to stuff the ballot boxes. If that was not the case, why did they arrest most of our polling station watchers? That is exactly to create the opportunity for them to do the stuffing," he said.

An observation consortium of religious and civic groups conducted a parallel tabulation of the vote in eight percent of the stations nationwide. The group said there were indications of irregularities in six percent of the voting stations.

Voter turnout nationwide was 45%, but some stations reported a turnout of 95% or more, raising suspicions that there was ballot stuffing involved. Other voting stations reported a turnout of 15% or less. Many ballots were disqualified because they had a check-mark beside the face of one candidate, but a fingerprint beside the face of another. Some observers concluded that such fraud might have affected the outcome in one of the contests for parliament, and several of those for the provincial assemblies.

Most international observers, however, had deemed the elections fair and free, although there had been some criticism that the electoral commission had disqualified MDM candidates for all but four provincial assemblies on technical grounds.

"The pre-election phase was characterized by peaceful, tolerant and yet enthusiastic political atmosphere. There was clear evidence of vigor and enthusiasm among political parties as they conducted their campaigns," said the South African Development Community (SADC), which sent 98 observers to oversee the elections.

What is your opinion on these elections? Do you think that the vote was fair?

"The observer mission was impressed by the patience of voters who were able to express their franchise peacefully, freely and unhindered. It is, therefore, SEOM [SADC Election Observer Mission]'s overall view that the elections were conducted in an open and peaceful manner," it added.

The national elections commission stated that no official complaints of voting irregularity were submitted to them. "Political parties have two days after the voting day to present complaints or proof of irregularities. We did not receive any complaints during this period," said the chairman of Mozambique's National Elections Commission, Leopoldo da Costa.

Felizeberto Nice, director general of the technical secretariat of the CNE, also dismissed the opposition's claims and asserted that the election was credible. "It is quite difficult to accept this kind of declaration because all the processes were followed [...] so the process was very, very transparent and everybody was able to see what was happening," Nice said.

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