Maputo — An embarrassing incident marred the start of voting for Mozambique's municipal elections on Wednesday morning in the central city of Quelimane, when the outgoing mayor, Manuel de Araujo, could not find his name in the polling station registers.
Araujo was elected mayor in 2013 on the ticket of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), but he has defected to the former rebel movement Renamo, and is now Renamo's mayoral candidate.
At the polling centre at the Coloane primary school, on the outskirts of Quelimane, Araujo went to two polling stations without finding his name - he returned to the first station when a Renamo polling monitor found the correct register including Araujo's name.
Speaking to reporters after he had voted, Araujo complained of "incomplete registers". He said the station where he eventually voted had an incomplete register "with 338 names missing, including those of myself and my wife".
He said that some young people tried to vote early in the morning, "but had to go home because they were among the 338 missing names".
"For me, this is extremely serious", Araujo said. "I urge the voters to be persistent and patient. If a citizen has registered as a voter, it is his constitutional right to vote".
It is not yet clear exactly how this blunder happened. There are several copies of the electoral register for each polling station, and a copy is given to each of the competing parties. Evidently the one given to Renamo was complete, but the one in the hands of the polling station staff themselves was not.
The mayoral candidates of the other two main parties, Carlos Carneiro of Frelimo and Rogerio Warowaro of the MDM, faced no such problem.
Carneiro said he had found the voting procedure "very quick and easy", and he was optimistic that the elections will be "free and transparent".
Warwaro urged all registered voters to make their way to the polling stations. "Everybody should go and vote", he said. "Don't leave it until later. It's important that everybody exercise the right to vote, and then goes home and waits for the results".