9 February 2014

Mozambique: Opposition Wins Gurue Elections

Maputo — The opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) has won Saturday's re-run elections, both for the mayor and for members of the municipal assembly, in the town of Gurue, in the central province of Zambezia.

Like all the other 52 municipalities, Gurue first went to the polls on 20 November, but electoral staff committed so many gross irregularities that the Constitutional Council, the country's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, annulled the elections and ordered a rerun.

At about 23.00 on Saturday night, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) announced the provisional results from 46 of the 49 polling stations, showing a convincing win for the MDM's mayoral candidate, Orlando Janeiro, over his opponent from the ruling Frelimo Party, Jahanguir Jussub.

The results from these stations were

Orlando Janeiro (MDM) - 7,449 (55.74 per cent)

Jahanguir Hussub (Frelimo) - 5.913 (44.26 per cent)

The three remaining polling stations could not possibly alter this result significantly.

The Electoral Observatory, a coalition of the country's main religious organizations (Protestant, Catholic and Moslem) plus several prominent NGOs, fielded enough observers to cover all the polling stations, and produced a complete parallel count.

The results of the Observatory's count were as follows:

Mayoral election

Orlando Janeiro (MDM) - 7,812 (55.03 per cent)

Jahanguir Jussub (Frelimo) - 6,385 (44.97 per cent).

484 votes (3.2 per cent of all votes cast) were declared invalid at the polling stations, and there were 391 blank ballots (2.6 per cent).

Municipal Assembly election

MDM - 7,677 (53.97 per cent)

Frelimo - 6,551 (46.04 per cent)

There were 415 invalid votes (2.7 per cent), and 529 blank ballots (3.5 per cent).

The Electoral Observatory put the turnout at 41.19 per cent of Gurue's 36,679 registered voters. This is an improvement on the 20 November turnout, which was only 38.55 per cent. On Saturday morning, when long queues built up outside the polling stations, there were hopes for a much higher turnout, but as the day wore on the queues evaporated, and only a trickle were voting in the afternoon.

The official results of the annulled Gurue election, announced by the Gurue District Elections Commission on 22 November, claimed that Jussub had won 6,695 votes to 6,669 for Janeiro, a margin of victory of 26 votes. But the MDM had its own copies of the same results sheets, and when tadded together they showed a victory for Janeiro by 6,679 votes (50.2 per cent) to 6,626 votes for Jussub (49.8 per cent). The Electoral Observatory's parallel count in November reached an almost identical conclusion - it said that Janeiro won by 6,678 votes to 6,626 for Jussub.

Whichever of these results one prefers, one thing is clear - on Saturday, the MDM increased its vote by over 1,000, while Frelimo was unable to hold onto all the people who voted for it in November. The detailed figures from the Electoral Observatory show that Jussub won in only 13 polling stations.

These results are unofficial and await confirmation by the National Elections Commission (CNE). The CNE must also reclassify all the votes declared invalid at the polling stations. In all Mozambican elections, polling station staff have tended to interpret the law very strictly, rejecting as invalid ballots where the voter has made a slight mistake in placing his cross, even though his intention is clear.

The CNE often rescues a good number of these votes, when it can detect a clear preference for one candidate. But even if all the invalid votes were given to Jussub and Frelimo, Janeiro and the MDM would still win.

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