Mozambican Renamo opposition parliament members accused the ruling Frelimo party on Thursday of intimidation and fraud in closely-fought presidential and legislative elections as ballots were still being counted a day after the vote.
Frelimo, whose presidential candidate Filipe Nyusi is widely viewed as favorite to win, dismissed the accusations as “bad faith.” But the alleged irregularities, which could not be independently confirmed, raised fears of a possible disputed outcome from Wednesday's voting in the southern African nation.
The national electoral commission was expected to start announcing provisional results from Thursday. Wednesday's voting had gone ahead generally peacefully, according to international observers.
But police clashed late on Wednesday with protesting Renamo supporters in the second city of Beira, in the center of the country, and also in Nampula in the north. At least one person suffered gunshot wounds and there were a number of arrests. Mozambique's port capital Maputo has so far remained calm.
Frelimo candidate Nyusi, a former defense minister, is facing a determined challenge from veteran Renamo contender and former rebel chief Afonso Dhlakama, who fought Frelimo in the 1975-1992 civil war that immediately followed Mozambique's independence from Portugal.
Daviz Simango of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) is also a contender for the presidency.
With tabulation of votes still underway by election officials, prominent Renamo parliamentarian Ivone Soares accused the police in northern Nampula province of intimidating electors, of harassing her personally, and of trying to influence the vote outcome in favor of Frelimo.
“It seems as though it's the police who are running the elections,” said Soares. “How will it be a transparent process?”
Another Renamo deputy and spokesman of the party's parliamentary group, Arnaldo Chalaua, accused state TV and radio of selectively announcing individual polling station results to try to give the impression that Frelimo's Nyusi had already won.
“There is a fraud going on,” he said, although both he and Soares said Renamo had not yet adopted any final position as a party on how it would react to the eventual election outcome.
Frelimo spokesman Damiao Jose rejected the allegations made by the Renamo deputies. “There were no irregularities. The process was orderly, transparent and peaceful,” he told Reuters.
Donors, investors watching
Foreign donors and investors hope the election will help to bury animosities lingering from the civil war. It was the fifth presidential vote since a peace agreement ended the conflict.
When Dhlakama voted on Wednesday, he urged the electoral authorities to ensure that the election outcome be credible and transparent “for the first time.” He has lost every election to Frelimo over the last two decades, alleging fraud every time.
Some analysts predict a close race. If Frelimo's Nyusi, 55, fails to secure more than 50 percent of the total vote, he will face a second round run-off with his nearest contender in which the anti-Frelimo votes would be united against him.
The new president will oversee the bringing into production of large-scale offshore natural gas and oil projects in the north already being developed by investors such as U.S. oil major Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Italy's Eni.
In their campaigns, Renamo's Dhlakama and MDM's Simango attacked what they say is the stranglehold Frelimo has long maintained over political and economic power in Mozambique.
In the two years before the vote, Dhlakama's armed Renamo partisans clashed sporadically with government troops and police and ambushed traffic on a north-south highway, triggering some concerns Mozambique could slide back into civil war.
The white-haired, bespectacled former guerrilla leader, who is 61, emerged from a bush hideout only last month to ratify a deal with outgoing Frelimo President Armando Guebuza reaffirming the 1992 peace pact. Guebuza is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term.