Maputo — The Constitutional Council, Mozambique's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, on Wednesday validated and proclaimed the results of the 10 October local elections in 52 of the country's 53 municipalities, but rejected the results from Marromeu, in the central province of Sofala.
The Council had, on 26 October, rejected an appeal from the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, against the Marromeu results because Renamo had submitted the appeal a day late, and had not made any objection at the polling stations where the irregularities occurred, or to the Marromeu District Elections Commission. But this did not prevent the Council from drawing its own conclusions.
It found that "serious irregularities which called into question the freedom, justice and transparency of the elections" had occurred at eight polling stations. These are the same polling stations mentioned in the Renamo appeal.
Rioting had occurred in the polling centres during the count on the night of 10 October, during which four people were shot. From the ruling given by the Marromeu District Court and from police statements, the Council concluded that the rioting made it impossible for parties to present protests at the polling stations.
Renamo also claimed that, during the chaos, polling station chairpersons falsified results sheets, giving victory to the ruling Frelimo Party in places where, in reality, Renamo had the largest number of votes.
The Constitutional Council struck down the Marromeu result announced by the National Elections Commission on 24 October, which gave Frelimo victory by 8,330 votes (47.13 per cent) to 7,810 for Renamo (44.19 per cent). It ordered that fresh elections must be held in the eight polling stations where the irregularities had occurred.
Under the law governing municipal elections, the new election must be held by the second Sunday after the Council's decision - that is, by 25 November. The date is fixed by the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), on the proposal of the CNE.
Renamo election agent Andre Majibire was angered that the Council had only struck down the Marromeu result. There were clear signs of significant irregularities that had changed the results in three other municipalities, but in these the Council did not order fresh elections.
In the mining town of Moatize, in Tete province, Renamo said an initial count of the polling station results sheets gave victory to Renamo - but a second count mysteriously cut the Renamo total by almost 1,500 votes and declared Frelimo the winner.
At a press conference in late October Majibire made the extremely serious allegation that Frelimo appointees on the Moatize STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) and on the District Elections Commission broke into the STAE warehouse, illegally opened the sealed plastic bags of votes and documents, and changed the results. The new results gave Frelimo 9,839 votes and Renamo 9,742.
A journalist in Moatize, Aparicio Jose de Nascimento, editor of the local weekly paper "Malacha", did his own count of the results sheets. He visited all the polling stations after the end of the Wednesday night count and published all the 49 results on the "Malacha" Facebook page.
His count of the results sheets gave Renamo 11,166 votes, and Frelimo 9,789 - almost identical to the first count done by STAE.
According to "Malacha", 1,449 ballots were disputed at the polling stations. The CDE only attributed five of these votes to political parties - two to Frelimo and three to Renamo. The rest were really invalid (the total number of invalid votes was given as 1,633 - suspiciously high, since it is about seven per cent of all ballots cast).
As for the break-in at the STAE warehouses, the final results sheet justified this on the grounds that the people with the keys were absent. A security measure for STAE warehouses is that they have four padlocks. One key is in the hands of each political party (Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM), and the fourth is with STAE. So in principle, the warehouse can only be opened with the consent of all the key holders - and this principle was violated in Moatize.
All of this is publicly available information, and was ignored by the Constitutional Council.
As for Alto Molocue, in Zambezia province, the CNE accepted that some polling station results sheets had "disappeared" and had then somehow been recovered and added to the total. Nonetheless, it accepted the district intermediate count, giving Frelimo a victory of less than one per cent.
In this case, there happens to be a complete parallel count done by observers from EISA (Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa) which gave Renamo over 50 per cent of the vote. Although praising the presence of observers in these elections, the Constitutional Council did not take the EISA findings into consideration.
Renamo also claimed that in Monapo, in Nampula province, results from two polling stations had been illicitly altered, and that its election agent in the town was not invited to the intermediate count.
That Renamo was essentially correct is clear from the "partial count" by STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) announced on 11 October. In Monapo, with 62 of the 63 polling stations processed, STAE said Renamo had 9,136 votes to 8,480 for Frelimo. But the results released by the district commission, based on all 63 polling stations, gave Frelimo 9,579 against 9,363 for Renamo. The results had obviously been tampered with - or else the 63rd polling station gave Frelimo 1,099 votes, which is impossible because the maximum number of people registered at any polling station is 800.
The Constitutional Council found that Renamo was broadly correct to protest that some of its votes had not been counted in the western city of Tete. Renamo claimed that 2,205 of its votes had not been counted - the Council looked at all the results sheets from the polling stations and found that Renamo had not done its sums right either. The true number of Renamo votes missing was 852, and the Council ordered that these be added to the total.
This does not alter the Frelimo victory in Tete, but it might alter the distribution of seats on the municipal assembly
In all the other municipalities, the Council maintained the results announced by the CNE. The end result is that Frelimo won a majority of votes in 43 of the 53 municipalities, Renamo in eight, the MDM (Mozambique Democratic Movement) in one, and one is yet to be decided.
Speaking to reporters after the Council's proclamation, Frelimo Political Commission member Sergio Pantie painted this as a victory for Frelimo. But in terms of votes cast, Frelimo only won about 52 per cent - making this the poorest result Frelimo has achieved in any election.
The MDM is certainly the major loser. It won four municipalities, including three major cities in the previous local elections in 2013, and now it has lost all of them except its stronghold of Beira, where its leader, Daviz Simango, is mayor.
Renamo began 2018 without holding a single municipality (because it boycotted the 2013 elections). It won Nampula in a by-election in March, and now holds eight municipalities, with high hopes of a ninth when the Marromeu election is rerun.