JOHANNESBURG - Five days after Mozambique voted in national elections, confusion is rising as results are trickling out slower than expected, the ruling party appears to have lost ground to the opposition, and the opposition is alleging fraud despite observers’ claims that the vote was largely free and fair.
Mozambicans like to say that nothing happens quickly in their laid-back, coastal African nation.
That appears to include ballot-counting, which, at five days after the election, is running well behind schedule. Results initially were expected to be announced within 72 hours of Wednesday’s vote -- and although many stations appear to have finished counting, that announcement deadline has long passed.
Projections released Monday by a group of analysts show that longtime ruling party Frelimo is predicted to win both the presidency and parliamentary elections, with about 58 percent of the vote in each.
Opposition party allegations
The delay and other problems, though, have been enough to prompt presidential challenger Afonso Dhlakama to cry foul. His opposition party, Renamo, is alleging fraud and ballot-box stuffing, though observer groups from the European Union, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community have said that irregularities were isolated and that the vote was largely free and fair.
Mozambican journalist and analyst Fernando Lima says it’s notable that Dhlakama, despite his complaints, drew twice as many votes as he did the last time he ran for president. One factor, he says, is a noticeable drop in confidence for Frelimo, which won 75 percent in both the presidential and parliamentary polls in 2009.
Frelimo’s drop and Renamo’s likely loss won’t make either of those parties happy, but he says one group stands to benefit: investors who are hovering over Mozambique’s massive natural gas reserves. One of Renamo’s main complaints was that Frelimo had a stranglehold over those assets. If these results hold, Lima says, Frelimo’s grip may weaken.
“I think the outcome of the elections is the best outcome for the investors, meaning Frelimo is supposed to be the winner, but Frelimo didn’t win big, which turns Frelimo more soft, forces Frelimo to be more open to dialogue and to negotiate with the opposition," Dhlakama said.
As ever in a nation that was torn apart by 16 years of civil war, however, the fear of conflict is never far away. And for that, says analyst Carlton Cadeado, everyone is watching one man: Dhlakama, who has led Renamo since the bloody civil war.
Dhlakama said Saturday that he doesn’t intend to reprise the conflict, but it’s clear that he is a key decision maker in Mozambique’s future.
“I can say that we grew since 1992. Our elections, … our political parties, our civil society organizations are really engaged in this political process. We can be proud of this," Dhlakama said. "But of course, we can can worry, because at this moment, we don’t know exactly what will be the behavior of the political parties, especially Renamo. It’s not rational to start a new war at this point. Everybody’s watching Renamo, internally and externally.”
It remains to be seen what each side will do next. But investors will surely be closely watching events in what could become a rising African energy giant.