from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – MOZAMBIQUE has plunged into a political crisis as opposition parties allege fraud during municipal polls held last Wednesday.
The main opposition Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) has called for nationwide protests, starting on Tuesday (today) amid indications the ruling Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) party has won all but one municipality.
Some 65 municipalities were under contest in the sixth such election, which is the precursor to presidential polls set for 2024.
The smaller opposition party, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), is maintaining its majority in the fourth-largest city of Beira.
MDM, a splinter from RENAMO, has sought legal action against the vote.
RENAMO, the former bandit organisation, has claimed an “unequivocal and overwhelming” victory. On Tuesday, it has scheduled a so-called Victorious Caravan, which is likely to pit party supporters, mainly youths in the urban areas, with the security forces.
Crisis24, the security think-tank, has forecast protests and clashes between FRELIMO, RENAMO and MDM supporters, as well as with security forces.
“Protests are especially likely in opposition-controlled municipalities,” it warned.
“Disruptions to urban and intercity road travel, business operations, and telecommunications are likely amid significant bouts of civil unrest or preemptive security operations.”
Some 22 parties and civil society organisations ran for local mayoral and legislative positions.
FRELIMO previously controlled 44 municipalities, RENAMO had eight and MDM a solitary one in Beira.
The government created twelve new municipalities for last week’s ballot.
There are allegations of police killing activists in the strongholds of RENAMO in Nampula and Quelimane.
FRELIMO, in power since 1975 when Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, has won every national election since the end of civil war in 1992.
The United States this week said there were “credible reports” from irregularities on the voting day and during the vote clearing process.
The US embassy in the capital Maputo urged the National Elections Commission (CNE) to ensure all votes are counted accurately and transparently.
Vote counting in at least 12 municipalities has been disputed.
Tensions have been building up particularly in Maputo where opposition supporters have braved the rainy weather to protest.
The US embassy urged electoral authorities, local courts and the Constitutional Council to take all complaints of irregularities seriously and to act with impartiality.
“A clean, transparent and peaceful electoral process is essential for the future of Mozambique’s multi-party democracy,” it stated.
The Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE) has appealed for “calm, patience and serenity” about the “anxiety” in the voting results of the October 11 election.
Regina Matsinhe, STAE spokesperson, conceded to possible irregularities with pre-voted ballots.
“Investigations are underway to clarify and hold those involved in this behaviour that compromises the good name of the electoral bodies,” the spokesperson said.
The country of 34 million people is meanwhile contending with an Islamist insurgency that has displaced 850 000 civilians in the resource-rich north.
– CAJ News