Maputo, 11 Dec (AIM) – Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo Party won all four repeated municipal elections held on Sunday – but with a low turnout, a heavy police presence, and many of the same irregularities that led the Constitutional Council to order the elections to be repeated.
In Marromeu, in Sofala province, where the elections were re-run in the entire municipality, according to Daniel Cusaminho, the district director of STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat), 16,211 of the 29,433 registered voters went to the polls – a turnout of slightly more than 55 per cent.
Frelimo won with 8,450 votes. The main opposition party, Renamo came second, with 6,104 votes, while the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) only took 607 votes.
In the other three municipalities, where the election was only held in some of the polling stations, turnout was well below 50 per cent. In Gurue, 8,646 voters were registered in the 13 polling stations where the election was repeated. But only 2,872 cast their votes – a turnout of 33.2 per cent.
Frelimo won 1,681 votes. In second place was New Democracy (ND) with 853 votes. Renamo only took 86 votes. Gurue is the only municipality in the country where ND is a serious competitor for power.
In Milange, where the election was repeated at just three polling stations, only 640 of the 2,397 registered voters bothered to cast their votes – a turnout of 26.7 per cent.
In Nacala, at first sight Frelimo seemed to have won an extraordinary victory, with 91 per cent of all valid votes. But that was only because Renamo boycotted the election.
12,983 voters were registered at the 18 polling stations, but just 3,694 votes were cast – a turnout of only 28.7 per cent. Frelimo won 3,227 votes (91 per cent).
A few Renamo supporters did go to the polls. Renamo won 221 votes (6.2 per cent). The MDM won 89 votes (2.5 per cent).
The Renamo mayor of Nacala, Raul Novinte, who was standing for a further term of office, claimed the massive abstention rate was a victory for Renamo.
Interviewed by the independent television station STV, Novinte denied that any member of Renamo had broken the boycott and cast a vote. The 221 votes for Renamo were therefore “invented”.
“Nobody went to vote”, he said. “The polling stations were deserted”.
But although Renamo in Nacala may be disciplined, there is no way that Novinte and his followers could oblige every Renamo supporter in the city to join the boycott – especially since the Renamo leadership in Maputo was opposed to the boycott.
The level of abstention, added Novinte, “shows that Frelimo does not exist in Nacala. The people know that Frelimo stole its victory”.
The police resorted to force to disperse crowds of voters outside polling stations. The worst incident took place during the counting of votes at stations inside the Gurue Secondary School, where the police injured five opposition protestors, who were all treated in the Gurue rural hospital.
Four were discharged on Monday morning, but the fifth, shot in both legs, was still unconscious in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
The head of the police public relations department, Miguel Caetano, told STV that the police had first used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, and only when this did not work did they resort to live ammunition.
Observers noted that exactly the same offences, including ballot box stuffing, which had led the Constitutional Council to demand a repeat of the elections were committed again on Sunday.
This was hardly surprising, since many of the people who had promoted electoral fraud in October were still in charge of the polling stations. The central offices of STAE had ordered that nobody suspected of illicit behavior in October should be rehired for the Sunday repeat elections.
But the district branches of STAE simply disregarded this instruction. The anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity, investigated eight officials accused of electoral crimes in Gurue in October, and found that they were still chairing Gurue polling stations.