Maputo — An opinion poll undertaken by the Polytechnic University, Mozambique's largest privately owned institution of higher education, suggests that the former rebel movement Renamo is no longer the main opposition force in the country, but has been overtaken by the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
The opinion poll covered a sample of 10,698 registered voters in five of the eleven provincial constituencies (Maputo City, Maputo Province, Tete, Zambezia and Nampula). Everywhere the poll found that the MDM is more popular than Renamo, sometimes by a very large margin.
In some of the cities, particularly among younger voters, the poll found that the MDM is more popular than the ruling Frelimo Party.
Overall, however, Frelimo remains favourite to win the general elections scheduled for 15 October, because of its rural support.
Of the total sample, 47.5 per cent said they would vote for the Frelimo candidate, former defence minister Filipe Nyusi in the presidential election, 35.7 per cent would vote for the MDM leader and mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, while only 10.9 per cent would vote for Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
Almost six per cent said they would vote for another candidate. But there are no other candidates - the poll was taken before the Constitutional Council, the highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, announced that only Nyusi, Simango and Dhlakama met all the legal criteria for presidential candidates.
Another problem, recurrent throughout the poll, is that we are not told how many of the interviewees refused to answer and how many said they had not made up their minds. The “don't knows” and “won't says” have been eliminated from the percentages.
But the poll tells us that 9,421 people answered the question. Since the sample was 10,698, there were 1,277 people who refused to answer or were indecisive - which is almost 12 per cent.
The same problem recurs throughout the poll. By eliminating the “don't knows” and “won't says”, the pollsters distort the results. In particular, they make the position of Nyusi and Frelimo look stronger than it may be. When looking at the rest of the figures in this article, it must always be remembered that a large slice of the sample declined to answer.
Asked which party they would vote for in the parliamentary election, 48.2 per cent of the sample favoured Frelimo, 36.1 per cent the MDM.
10.7 per cent Renamo and five per cent “others”.
When the figures are broken down by province, it can be seen that Simango and the MDM have made massive inroads into the once solid Frelimo majority in Maputo city. 46.3 per cent of the Maputo sample opted for Nyussi, against 45.3 per cent for Simango. Only 8.4 per cent said they would vote for Dhlakama. As for the parliamentary election in Maputo, 44.9 per cent said they would vote for Frelimo, 42.6 per cent for the MDM, 8.2 per cent for Renamo and 4.2 per cent for “others”.
Looking at the figures more closely, Simango wins in KaMpfumo, district in central Maputo, with 51.6 per cent, to 40.1 per cent for Simango and 8.4 per cent for Dhlakama.
Moving away from the centre of the city, the Nyusi share of the vote increases. Thus in the KaMaxaquene municipal district, 47.2 per cent of the sample said they would vote for Nyusi, 44.1 per cent for Simango and 8.7 per cent for Dhlakama (but for the parliamentary election, the MDM enjoys a slight advantage - 45.1 per cent to Frelimo's 44.2 per cent).
On the rural outskirts of Maputo, Nyusi and Frelimo have a crushing advantage - in the KaTembe municipal district 71.9 per cent of the sample would vote for Nyusi, against 22.8 per cent for Simango and 5.3 per cent for Dhlakama.
These figures are in line with the results from the November municipal elections, in which the MDM did very well in the inner, wealthier parts of Maputo, but its support faded in the outer suburbs.
In cities governed by the MDM after the municipal elections, the MDM leads the poll. In Quelimane, capital of Zambezia province, 45.8 per cent of the sample would vote for the MDM, 38.8 per cent for Frelimo, 11 per cent for Renamo, and 4.4 per cent for others (the poll as released on Thursday did not contain percentages of the presidential candidates in Quelimane).
The position is even rosier for the MDM in Nampula city, where 50.4 per cent of the sample opted for Simango, against 37.2 per cent for Nyusi and 12.4 per cent for Dhlakama.
But in the districts of both Zambezia and Nampula, Frelimo enjoyed a comfortable lead. Taking Zambezia as a whole, 47.9 per cent of the sample chose Nyusi, 39.6 per cent Simango, and 12.5 per cent Dhlakama. In Nampula province, Nyusi led on 52.2 per cent, followed by Simango on 35.4 per cent, and Dhlakama with 12.3 per cent.
As for the other two provinces covered, in Tete Nyusi was the choice of 57.3 per cent of the sample. Simango had the support of 33.7 per cent, and Dhlakama nine per cent.
As for Maputo province, at first sight it looks like a crushing victory for Nyusi, with 65.1 per cent of the sample choosing him, followed by 24.1 per cent for Simango and 10.9 per cent for Dhlakama.
But the Maputo province sample is just 97 people from two rural districts (Namaacha and Moamba). Over half the population of the province lives in the city of Matola, which was not covered by the poll. In the municipal elections, the MDM made a very strong showing in Matola.
The pollsters admit that it is impossible to extrapolate from this poll to the entire country. Six provinces are missing, and four of them (Gaza, Inhambane, Cabo Delgado and Niassa) are generally regarded as Frelimo strongholds. Even in the provinces covered, only a couple of districts in each province were sampled.
There are also serious problems of methodology with the poll. Not only have the “don't knows” been tossed aside, but the sample is seriously skewed in terms of gender and education. 63.3 per cent of the sample were women, and only 36.7 per cent men.
13.5 per cent were university students, and a further 4.8 per cent had a degree. 37.7 per cent had mid-level education. Thus well educated people were vastly over-represented in the poll in comparison with their weight in the general population.
This is almost certainly the last poll that will be published before the elections. The Mozambican electoral law makes it illegal to publish opinion polls between the start of the official election campaign (Sunday) and the publication of the election results.