Go To The Polls In Small Numbers
- Neil Falzon
Lawyer and Human Rights Activist
results (of the elections) would be killing democracy” – Afonso
Dhlakama, Renamo leader and presidential candidate.
Showered by heavy
rainfalls and beaten by a scorching sun, 8 million Mozambicans
had the opportunity in December 2004 to exercise their right to
vote in the country’s third multi-party elections, choosing Armando
Guebuza as their new President and confirming the Mozambique Liberation
Front (Frelimo) as the ruling party in Parliament. Frelimo Secretary-General
Mr. Guebuza succeeds President Joaquim Alberto Chissano who, after
18 years of rule, decided not to contest the elections.
With a meagre
36% turnout of voters, these elections nonetheless signify a sweeping
victory of Frelimo over its historic rival, the rebel group turned
political movement Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), with
which it fought a bloody civil war for 16 years. With 64% of votes
in his favour, Mr. Guebuza takes Frelimo, in power since 1975,
into another 5 years of rule and widens the gap between Frelimo
and Renamo. Renamo’s leader Afonso Dhlakama managed to obtain
32% of votes, whilst obtaining 34% and 48% in the elections of
1994 and 1999 respectively.
Mozambicans go to polls
victory is the huge parliamentary majority obtained by Frelimo,
winning 160 seats from 250.
The two major
political contenders, Frelimo and Renamo, have been enemies since
the country’s independence in 1974, with both parties sharing
high levels of unpopularity amongst the electorate. Following
independence, Frelimo established a one-party
state based on socialist principles and created intensive, Russian-style
re-education camps. In opposition and with the support of the
Rhodesian government, the rebel group Renamo was created in 1977,
starting the civil war which would ravage the entire country until
1992 when, under a UN-sponsored settlement, peace was finally
established in Mozambique.
“We have succeeded
in consolidating the peace process,” said President Chissano,
of the December elections. The elections reflect the country’s
present political situation, with the two parties peacefully vying
for power, albeit not without tension and controversy. In fact,
not many would agreewith President Chissano’s comment, since the
elections were tarnished with allegations of abuse and fraud,
with Guebuza accused of “plotting against democracy”. Just a week
after the elections, even before the announcement of the official
results, Dhlakama called for fresh voting, claiming “massive fraud”,
including manipulation of electoral computers and prevention of
opposition supporters from voting.
Afonso Dhlakama, Leader of opposition,
He also called
on outgoing President Chissano to remain in office until new elections
were held. This call has recently been modified as Renamo awaits
a ruling on the alleged irregularities from Mozambique’s Constitutional
Council. Eduardo Namburete, manager of Renamo’s electoral campaign,
is reported to have said that the party will only call for re-elections
in those areas where there have been reports of irregularities.
An insight of
such allegations and of the entire electoral process may be provided
by the reports and statements of the over 200 foreign electoral
observers present in Mozambique. Amongst these observers were
the Commonwealth, the Carter Center and the European Union, all
of which have published their observations on the electoral process.
Secretariat sent 2 delegations to the Mozambique elections. An
Observer Group, present for the end of the campaign period, the
voting and the counting of votes at the polling stations, had
the mandate of ascertaining whether the December elections provided
the electorate with the conditions necessary for free expression
of their will and whether the final results do in fact reflect
The Group was
also requested to evaluate elements affecting the credibility
of the general electoral process. Together with this group, the
Secretariat sent an Expert Team, present to observe the remainder
of the result process. The Team’s mandate was more specific since
it was requested to establish whether counting was conducted in
a manner conforming to the Mozambique’s electoral legislation.
One of the main
issues of concern to the to the Commonwealth observers was certainly
the levels of provincial and national access granted to them by
the National Electoral Commission (CNE), particularly at the crucial
stages of the results process where invalid ballot papers and
challenged votes were being reclassified.
were also prohibited from the sessions where the CNE reconsidered
the rejected Results Summary Sheets. Although the CNE confirmed
that it would publish the list of all rejected Sheets together
with the reasons for rejection, this is yet to be done. Criticism
is also directed at various Renamo representatives who stalled
the electoral process at various stages by, for example, boycotting
CNE meetings, rendering consensus decisions impossible and refusing
to grant access to Electoral Materials Warehouses in a number
of provinces. Problems with the accuracy, integrity and security
of the software utilised for the tabulation proofs were also reported.
did, however, note with satisfaction the presence of several conditions
which indicated an increased level of democratic spirit. Civic
and voter education was seen as being effective and pluralistic,
polling staff seemed to be adequately educated about their roles
and duties at the stations and observers were largely granted
access to all the electoral preparatory stages.
observers concluded that conditions for free democratic elections
did in fact exist and praised the good spirit with which they
the good spirit with which they were received and allowed to conduct
their work. In their conclusions and recommendations, they highlight,
inter alia, the needs:
Generally, they recommend that the Mozambican Government liaises with the Commonwealth Secretary General to find methods of improving its electoral management arrangements and to ascertain and process the reasons for the record low turn-out.
In its post election statement, whilst praising the peaceful environment surrounding the general process, the Carter Center expresses its concern at a number of issues which, whilst not necessarily affecting the outcome of the elections, weaken their integrity and credibility. With regards to the provincial tabulation, the Center notes that no province met the legal deadline of 9 December for the presentation of results, owing to delayed delivery of district materials and, echoing Dhlakama’s claims, faults in the tabulation software.
Furthermore, a number of districts reported voter turnouts described as “unrealistically high”, reaching
90% to 100%. In the light of the overall poor turnout, with a meagre 36% of the electorate actually voting, such figures stand out as dubious.
In the same districts as the Center reports high Frelimo support as well a campaign period that was intimidating and restrictive for representatives of the opposing party. From a more structural perspective, the Center comments on the secretive attitude adopted by the CNE in respect of the list of polling stations and the lack of transparency in the central reclassification of dubious votes by the CNE, particularly with regards to the cancellation of ballot sheets that could have supported the opposition.
Similarly, the European Union’s Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Mozambique, comments on the CNE’s working methods and structure. No observers were admitted to the reassessment by the CNE of invalid and contested votes, with access to the re-qualification of invalid votes granted at pre-established time slots.
The EOM repeated the Carter Center’s concerns regarding the unusually high turnout in specific districts, emphasising the fact that the votes cast in these areas were predominantly in favour of Frelimo. Commenting on the revalidation sessions, the European Union observers noted “apparently deliberately invalidated ballots” in the districts commented upon by the Carter Center. Other problems mentioned include: the lack of information given regarding the electronic tabulation process, the fact that no updated voter list was presented for public scrutiny, the incoherence between the number of polling stations and the number of result sheets, an extremely low turnout with 5-12 voters at some stations, the lack of accuracy regarding the precise number of eligible voters and the fact that some polling stations either opened late on the second day or did not open at all thereby preventing over 20,000 voters from exercising their rights.
electoral law, all citizens above 18 years of age may vote. The
winning presidential candidate needs to obtain a majority of votes
cast with, each candidate being proposed by at least 5,000 voters
with at least 200 from each of the country’s provinces. Mozambique’s
National Assembly consists of 250 seats representating the country’s
11 electoral constituencies, which include Mozambique’s 10 provinces
together with Maputo City. Voting is by proportional representation
whereby voters select the preferred political block or list of
candidates as presented by each contesting party or coalition.
To obtain representation
in the National Assembly, a party or coalition needs to obtain
a minimum of 5% of the vote, following which the parliamentary
seats are distributed to successful parties or coalitions in proportion
to the number of votes obtained. The CNE is entrusted with ensuring
fairness and freedom throughout the registration and electoral
process. The CNE is also responsible for announcing the final
can we overcome poverty and all the other difficulties our country
is facing today, said Armando Guebuza, the presidential
Set on fighting
corruption and poverty, Mr. Guebuza has an arduous 5 years coming
his way, a challenge clearly reflected in the electoral process
giving him victory.