18 October, 2014

Mozambican Elections: Little to Cheer About

by Hussein Solomon

More than 10 million Mozambicans are eligible to vote in this week’s presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections taking place across 17,000 polling stations in the country. At the presidential level, the race is between Frelimo’s Feilipe Nyusi, the former Minister of Defence, Renamo’s Afonso Dhlakama and the Mozambique Democratic Movement’s (MDM) Daviz Simango.

Current President Guebuza with Renamo's Dhlakama (Photo: VOA)

Frelimo, the ruling party in Mozambique since independence from Portugal in 1975 is expected to score yet another electoral triumph with early votes being counted putting Nyusi in the lead. At the same time, it needs to be acknowledged that final elections results will only be released in two weeks’ time. The fact that Frelimo has once again routed its political opposition has come as a surprise to some observers who have pointed out that the ruling Frelimo has presided over a country with growing wealth inequality, increased corruption and mismanagement of public services. Consider the following: whilst Mozambique’s economy has been growing at a rate of 7.4% per annum this past decade, its 26 million citizens remain amongst the world’s poorest. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Index the country ranks 178th out of 187 countries. Given the failures of Frelimo, one would then expect the electorate to punish them at the polls. Why is this unlikely to happen?

Perhaps the answer to this question lay in the allegations of electoral fraud and intimidation that opposition parties allege is taking place across the length and breadth of the country. The MDM, for instance, alleges that one of its members was shot in both feet by police after he attempted to prevent a local Frelimo official from stuffing a ballot box in central Sofala province. Similarly, in a polling station in Tete province, Renamo officials say they found ballot boxes already stuffed with votes for Nyusi. In Nampula province, meanwhile, riot police used teargas to disperse a crowd that had gathered to watch the ballot count. This served to incense local public sentiment further since they suspected fraud in the ballot count and therefore wanted it to be done under the gaze of the public.

What is problematic in all this is the apathetic response from the international observers monitoring the poll – arguing that it’s being conducted in a largely peaceful manner with scant comment on the alleged electoral fraud taking place.

The credibility of the poll is absolutely essential in a polity as divided as Mozambique – divided along reinforcing cleavages of ethnicity, region, language, political affiliation and religion. But this week’s poll has done nothing to restore the faith of citizens in the country’s democratic pretensions. As such, there is nothing to cheer about in this week’s elections.

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