Maputo — The Maputo City Elections Commission announced on Saturday that Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party has won the municipal election held on Wednesday, but with a majority of less than one per cent.
According to the "intermediate result" announced by the Commission, Frelimo took 48.05 per cent of the vote, but the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo was breathing down its neck, with 47.28 per cent. The Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) saw its Matola vote collapse to just over four per cent.
Matola is the large, sprawling industrial city adjoining Maputo, which, thanks to migration from the capital, is fast overtaking Maputo as the country's largest city.
The results as announced by the City Elections Commission were as follows:
Total number of valid votes: 286,938
Frelimo: 137,875 (48.05 per cent)
Renamo 136,678 (47.28 per cent)
MDM: 11,799 (4.11 per cent)
The remaining 0.56 per cent was shared between five minor parties. Turnout was 59.17 per cent. There were about 8,000 invalid votes. Although some online commentators thought this was suspiciously high, it is just 2.7 per cent of the total votes cast, which is perfectly normal for an election in a Mozambican city.
The result must have come as a shock for Frelimo, since Matola was once regarded as a Frelimo stronghold, where the ruling party used to score over 80 per cent. But in 2013, when Frelimo's only competition was the MDM, thanks to a Renamo boycott of the elections that year, its majority fell to 56.5 per cent, and now it is under 50 per cent.
Under the old municipal election law, a majority of over 50 per cent was required to elect a mayor, and when that majority was not achieved a second, runoff round was held. But the new law, passed in July, abolishes second rounds, and simply states that the head of the list of the party which wins most votes becomes mayor. So Frelimo's Calisto Cossa wins a second term of office in Matola, but will have to deal with a municipal assembly in which he no longer commands an absolute majority. This could lead to negotiations between Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM to pass the municipal plan and budget.
On Friday Renamo announced that it had won the Matola election with 133,059 votes to 124,477 for Frelimo from a parallel count of 92 per cent of the polling stations. It now argues that the official result is fraudulent.
The Renamo representatives on the City Elections Commission refused to sign the results sheet ("edital"), and Renamo says it will appeal to the National Elections Commission (CNE). Renamo provincial agent Clementina Bomba told reporters that Renamo had its monitors at all 706 polling stations, and so has copies of all the results sheets, which show a Renamo victory.
Renamo could solve this matter by simply putting its copies of the results sheets onto a website. Then they can be checked for mistakes, and compared to the results sheets in the hands of Frelimo and the MDM, as well as the official copies of the sheets.
After the announcement, Frelimo celebrated in the streets of Matola, Calisto Cossa seemed delighted, despite the tiny margin of his victory. He thanked the citizens of Matola for their confidence in him and promised to do all in his power to continue developing the municipality.
"This is the result that the municipal citizens decided", he said. "It clearly represents the will of those who want to see the work being done continued. It is an added responsibility, and we shall continue to work for the development of the city".
This result is not definitive - it must be approved by the CNE, and then validated by the Constitutional Council, the highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law. If the CNE rejects Renamo's appeal, it will still have an opportunity to appeal to the Constitutional Council.