- The presidential elections in Mozambique are turning into the same pattern as the controversial 1999 poll as opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama today again alleged "massive fraud" and demanded a re-run. Large delays in the final and national tabulation process, where international observers have been excluded, raised the suspicions.
International election observers for more than one month have urged the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to let them oversee the entire election process, including the final and national tabulation process organised by the CNE in Maputo. If not admitted to this final phase, observers would be prevented from "certifying the results as representing the will of the electorate," the Carter Centre warned earlier this week.
The threat of a repetition of the controversial 1999 poll became true today. The CNE was expected to publish the results from last week's poll several days ago, but the national tabulation process is going slowly. Already yesterday, Vaughan Lewis, heading the Commonwealth election observers' team in Mozambique, warned that further delay in counting would lead to suspicions about the process.
Today, Mr Dhlakama - leader of the RENAMO opposition party and main challenger to the ruling party's presidential candidate - said he had sufficient evidence to allege "massive fraud" in the election counting process.
So far, the CNE has refused to publish any figures, saying the final results of the poll were to be announced on 17 December. Initial unofficial results, however, have suggested that Armando Guebuza- the candidate of the ruling FRELIMO party - is far ahead of Mr Dhlakama.
The RENAMO leader late on Wednesday withdrew his party's observers from the tabulation process at regional counting centres in Mozambique. He alleged manipulations to the software used to tabulate the votes, claiming that passwords to computers containing a database of results had been altered.
Consequently, the CNE stopped the counting process. Late today, the CNE however announced that the tabulation had been resumed due to negotiations with RENAMO. Antonio Carrasco, the technical leader of the CNE, told the press in Maputo that the problem had not been of a technological manner or related to fraud, but "serious problems of misunderstanding" by the RENAMO leadership.
- However, these problems have slowly been overcome, said Mr Carrasco. The CNE official criticised RENAMO for "creating obstacles" to the counting process. These "misunderstandings" by the opposition would result in another two to three days delay of the publication of the election results, he added.
While the counting process now again has started, the suspicions of election fraud have hardened. The international election observer teams of the Commonwealth and the Carter Centre are increasingly sceptical towards the national tabulation process, from which they have been excluded.
The Carter Centre reminded of its monitoring of the 1999, where its observer were denied full access to the final tabulation process, during which more than 500,000 cast ballots were questioned by the CNE and invalidated. President Joachim Chissano officially won the vote by a narrow margin, despite the complaints of Mr Dhlakama. "We were not permitted to confirm the reasons for this arbitrary action," the Carter Centre recalled.
Also observers from the Electoral Institute for Southern Africa (EISA) - which has a poor reputation after praising Zimbabwe's last elections - were somewhat sceptical to the delays in the counting process. The EISA team however did not expect any possible irregularities to affect the final result, given the large difference in votes between the FRELIMO and RENAMO candidates.
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