Maputo — Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party on Thursday morning conceded defeat in the mayoral by-election in the northern city of Nampula.
At a Nampula press conference, the head of the central Frelimo brigade in the election campaign, Political Commission member Tomas Salomao, congratulated Paulo Vahanle, the candidate of the rebel movement Renamo, for his victory. He said that the voters of Nampula had given their verdict “and it must be respected”.
With results sheets from most of the 401 polling stations counted, Vahanle had around 59 per cent of the vote and his Frelimo opponent, Amisse Cololo, 41 per cent.
These figures come from the parallel count done by the election observers, and both Frelimo and Renamo accept that they are accurate. The official results are expected to be announced by the Nampula District Elections Commission within a day or two.
Although Renamo itself seemed taken aback by its victory, in reality it was not surprising. For the last time Frelimo won an election in Nampula city was in 2009.
In the municipal elections of 2013 (boycotted by Renamo), the second largest opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), beat Frelimo. MDM candidate Mahamudo Amurane was elected mayor, and the MDM won an absolute majority of seats on the Nampula municipal assembly.
In the 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections, Renamo won a majority of the votes in Nampula city.
Euphoric Renamo supporters took to the streets of Nampula on Thursday morning. They blocked several roads and the police dispersed them with tear gas - a violent reaction which some of the election observers regarded as completely out of proportion to the threat posed.