Another five years for Frelimo

There were few surprises this week when the final results for Mozambique’s general elections on December 1 and 2 were announced.

On Tuesday, the National Elections Commission (CNE) said the presidential poll had been won by Armando Guebuza of the ruling Frelimo party. This group also garnered a majority of seats in Parliament.

“It’s a great responsibility. The people have shown continued trust in us, and have great expectations. We should not disappoint,” Veronica Macamo, Frelimo’s representative at the announcement ceremony, told reporters.

The CNE’s verdict confirmed preliminary results, which had indicated a convincing victory for Frelimo. Final results were to have been released last week (December 17); the CNE cited logistical problems as being among the factors that had contributed to its belated announcement of the poll’s outcome.

CNE chairperson Arão Litsuri gave Guebuza 63,74% of votes cast, against 31,74% for his closest rival, Renamo party leader Afonso Dhlakama.

Raul Domigos, who broke away from Renamo in 2000 to form the Peace, Democracy and Development Party, disappointed many by taking just 2,73% of the vote.

Frelimo won 160 seats in the 250-seat Parliament, an increase of 27 over the number of seats won in the 1999 elections. However, Renamo suffered dramatic losses in the parliamentary vote. It won just 90 seats, down from the 117 it secured five years ago.

The party, formerly a rebel group that waged a 16-year war against the government, has alleged widespread fraud at the polls — and said that it will not be taking up its seats in the legislature. However, the group has ruled out any resumption of conflict.

“Renamo does not recognise the 90 seats, and we’ll appeal to the Constitutional Court,” spokesperson Fernando Mazanga told reporters.

The Independent Party of Mozambique (Pimo) has also made allegations of vote rigging.

“There’s an emergence of a single-party system, which was designed in some office,” observed party representative Mussagy Magalhães.

He said Pimo will inform people that “the poll was not free, fair, and transparent … and that their votes were not counted.”

To a certain extent, observer groups have confirmed these claims. There is proof of ballot-box stuffing in the western Tete province, for example; this was also the case in the southern Gaza and northern Niassa regions, where instances of ballot-box stuffing appeared to favour Guebuza and Frelimo.

The Atlanta-based Carter Centre — which deployed monitors in Mozambique — issued a statement Tuesday in which it complained of “polling-station tally sheets results lacking credibility, problems with the tabulation software [and] mismatched numbers of polling stations and tally sheets”, among other matters.

However, both national and international observers also stated that the irregularities, though serious, were not on a scale that could have affected the outcome of the presidential vote. The observers believe that electoral fraud might have influenced the distribution of parliamentary seats.

“Although the centre does not expect these irregularities to alter the overall outcome of the presidential election, they do undermine the credibility of Mozambique’s electoral authorities,” said Tuesday’s statement by the Carter Centre.

Renamo also threatened to boycott Parliament to protest against the outcome of the 1999 election. But, as legislators who stay away from Parliament are also obliged to forfeit their salaries, economics eventually triumphed over indignation — and Renamo delegates resumed their seats.

The election was further marred by a low turnout: just 36% of those who were eligible to cast ballots did so.

Undaunted by Renamo’s claims of vote rigging, Guebuza has reportedly called on the opposition to work with him in fighting the numerous problems that plague Mozambique.

These include grinding poverty: a 2004 United Nations Human Development report estimates that about 38% of Mozambicans live on less than $1 a day.

Unemployment, corruption and Aids are also likely to figure prominently on the agenda of Guebuza, a wealthy businessman who has previously served as Mozambique’s interior minister.

The Southern African country’s new president, who will take over from Joachim Chissano, is to be inaugurated next month. Chissano’s exit will mark the end of a marathon political career: he has been in power for 18 years. — IPS

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