People in southeast african mozambique have chosen their new government amid heightened security measures.
The elections are seen as extremely important for peace in the state with rich natural gas reserves, as the country’s long-enemyed major parties only officially ended their years-long conflict a few weeks ago. The start of voting was initially calm and led to queues at many polling stations, said the head of the EU election observation mission. After polling stations closed, payment began in most places this evening; first results expected friday.
Elections were held for a new president, a parliament and provincial parliaments. The vote is seen as an indicator of how robust peace is in the country. It is the first test of public opinion since the ruling party frelimo and the former rebel group and current opposition party renamo signed a final peace agreement in august. They had been fighting each other for 15 years in a bloody civil war that ended in 1992. Violence has flared up again in the past few years.
Head of state filipe nyusi of frelimo, in power since mozambique’s independence from portugal in 1975, hopes for a second term in office. "These are the most watched elections ever in mozambique, in the region, and possibly in africa," he said as he cast his ballot in the capital maputo. Nyusi is the clear favorite, but the renamo has a good chance of winning a majority in some provinces. Renamo chief ossufo momade called for "the voice of the people should be respected" when casting his vote.
Elections overshadowed by violence and allegations of rigging. In the northern province of cabo delgado, some polling stations were unable to open on tuesday, affecting 5400 voters, according to the electoral commission. Rough gas deposits were discovered in the province, which could contribute significantly to the economic development of the country – but there are increasing attacks by suspected islamists there. Thousands of people have already fled the violence.
In addition, some 3,000 election observers did not receive their accreditations in time, the federation of the five major civil society election observer organizations criticized. Also, ballots already written on were found in some polling stations, said rafa valente machava of sala da paz, a federation of several civil society organizations.
Problems had already arisen during the election campaign: according to human rights activists, there were violent attacks on journalists and activists, as well as other forms of harassment. Just last week an election observer was shot dead, some of the suspects are police officers. The ruling party was also accused of manipulating the number of registered voters in frelimo strongholds.
How frelimo and renamo react to election results will be crucial to mozambique’s stability. "It would be very important for mozambique if, after the elections, everyone could acknowledge that this is a real result," said gunter nooke (CDU), the federal government’s africa commissioner, in the run-up to the elections. "But that presupposes that the government registers all voters, and that the opposition ultimately recognizes the results."
Almost 30 million people live in mozambique, and around 12.9 million registered to vote. The country is ranked 180 out of 189 countries in the UN’s human development index. Election results may also have been influenced by two devastating cyclones that cut a swath of destruction through mozambique this year, according to experts.