Opposition cry foul in Mozambique polls, as early count points to ruling Frelimo victory predicted by analysts

Frelimo candidate projected to win by 60%, a big drop from the 75% the party's candidate bagged in 2009.

MOZAMBIQUE’S ruling Frelimo party is likely to sweep hard-fought presidential and legislative elections, according to first results and unofficial projections released Thursday.

A partial vote count and projections by civil society groups suggested Frelimo’s Filipe Nyusi will become the country’s new president, winning around 60%, a huge drop from the 75% won by the party’s candidate in the 2009 election. 

With just over eight percent of polling stations reporting, Nyusi held 61% of the vote, according to the official tally, which was in line with the groups’ forecasts. “Preliminary numbers and projections indicate the Frelimo will win a landslide victory,” said a report by the Centre for Public Integrity and the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa. 

Claims of fraud

The vote took place against a backdrop of rising discontent over vast income disparities, despite a mineral resources windfall in the southern African nation. Rapid economic growth has failed to benefit the bulk of a population that is among the world’s poorest. Nyusi’s main opponent, rebel turned opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama of the Renamo party, was trailing in second position with 31% of votes, according to the projection. The third and youngest of the presidential candidates, Daviz Simango, was in third position with eight percent, a similar percentage to his tally in 2009. 

Voting was largely peaceful aside from sporadic clashes between police and opposition activists who claim that Frelimo, which has run Mozambique since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, tried to stuff ballot boxes. Paulo Cuinica, spokesman for the national Electoral Commission, said despite several incidents the polls had been “free and fair”. He confirmed unrest in several towns, including the opposition strongholds of Beira and Nampula where police fired teargas to disperse crowds. “This was due to the desire by the people to watch the count but this is not allowed by the law. Police had to act,” he told reporters. He said six people were arrested in the coal-rich northwestern Tete province where “quite a number of polling stations were destroyed and material burnt.” 

Four polling stations failed to open in northwestern Niassa province because there were problems with the delivery of balloting material. The opposition complained that many of their monitors were barred from watching the polls because their accreditation was not accepted. The electoral commission denied the claims. 

European Union observers said opposition monitors were absent at up to 34% of polling stations. The projections suggest a more balanced 250-seat parliament, with Frelimo’s count reduced from 191 to 142, Renamo upping its presence from 51 seats to 75 and MDM from eight to 31 seats. Nyusi, an engineer and former defence minister, is Frelimo’s candidate to replace incumbent President Armando Guebuza, who is prohibited by the constitution from running for a third term.

“Most important” election

Chatham House researcher Alex Vines believes the election is the “most important” in Mozambique since the first post-war vote in 1994.

“Investors are watching Mozambique closely and want stability and predictability,” said Vines, as the country stands on the cusp of becoming a gas producer.

Over 10 million voters were registered for the presidential race, plus polls for national and provincial assemblies.

Renamo, which has lost all elections since the end of the country’s 16-year civil war in 1992, has made something of a comeback, trying to spruce up its image after emerging from a low-level insurgency waged in the centre of the country just weeks ahead of the election.

At the same time ahead of the vote the fledgling MDM seemed to gaining popularity, after winning 40% of the vote in Maputo in municipal elections last December.

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