MAPUTO - International observers have largely given a stamp of approval to Mozambique’s October 15 elections.
Long-time ruling party Frelimo is winning by a landslide, according to preliminary results.
But the opposition has cried foul and says it won’t accept the results.
Free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful. Those are the five words that Mozambique’s ruling party wants to hear from international observers as it appears poised to triumph — yet again — in presidential and parliamentary elections.
And to a large extent, Frelimo got what it wanted.
Opposition party Renamo has lost four successive presidential elections. And it looks likely to lose a fifth time, with early results showing about a two-to-one margin in favour of Frelimo candidate Felipe Nyusi over Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
They are battling to succeed Frelimo’s Armando Guebuza, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
On Friday, observer missions from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community - the continent’s most important diplomatic bodies - gave Wednesday’s election a stamp of approval in their initial reports.
A top observer from SADC, Namibia’s Kaire Mbuende, summarized the findings. "Our conclusion was that the elections were peaceful, generally, they were transparent, free and fair, and credible,” said Mbuende.
But the European Union’s chief observer, Judith Sargentini, stopped short of giving such broad approval. "Words I won’t use. Also because we are still doing the final reporting and we’re taking the tabulation and the complaints period into account. But our sentence that you’re looking for is: ‘orderly voting after an unbalanced electoral campaign,’” she stated.
Sargentini went on to explain that the EU mission found that Frelimo -- which is better-staffed, wealthier and has the advantage of having ruled for several decades -- had an unfair advantage in the campaign. The party, she said, used state resources to campaign and was treated preferentially by police and authorities. They also had more party observers at the nation’s 17,000 polling stations and that poll workers gave those observers preferential treatment in some locations. Some state media outlets, she said, also gave Frelimo more air time than its two main competitors, which also included the new Mozambique Democratic Movement.
The major international observer bodies noted what they said were isolated incidents of irregularities, but also said that that didn’t interfere with most Mozambicans’ ability to cast their votes in peace.
But Renamo claims Frelimo rigged the election through ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of voters. A Renamo spokesman said the party does not accept the results.
Commonwealth observation mission chairman Hubert Ingraham, who is the former prime minister of the Bahamas, said his mission found that the will of the voters shines through, despite claims of problems.
“We are satisfied that, notwithstanding all of the challenges, notwithstanding the issues that have been raised in this statement and other statements, that the result of this election will reflect the will of the majority of voters who voted on election day. With respect to the other allegations, we shall, as we suggested, encourage persons with information about that to take it to the relevant authorities here in Mozambique who have established in law a mechanism for the settlement of disputes under these circumstances, and we want to encourage people to take advantage of that,” said Ingraham.
No matter who gets the most votes, the prospect of a peaceful election will one clear winner: Mozambique’s economy. The southern African nation sits on huge gas reserves, and investors likely to watch carefully for any sign of instability in a country that could become a new energy giant.