Maputo — The chairperson of Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, on Monday urged voters to leave the polling stations immediately after they have cast their ballots in the general elections scheduled for Tuesday.
Both the CNE and the police are taking seriously the threats by leading figures in the main opposition party Renamo to gather large numbers of people at the polling stations on the pretext of "controlling the vote".
Judging by the experience of the last elections, in 2014, assembling large crowds of people at the close of polls is a recipe for disorder and clashes with the police.
Carimo pointed out that the electoral legislation expressly forbids people who have already voted from remaining in the polling stations. He said there exist several legal mechanisms for "controlling the vote " - through accredited political party monitors and national and international observers, who may observe proceedings inside the polling stations from beginning to end.
In addition each of the three parties represented in the Mozambican parliament - the ruling Frelimo Party, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) - is entitled to appoint a member of staff at each polling station.
"We therefore discourage voters from remaining within the perimeter of the voting assembly after they have cast their ballots, since this would be against the letter and the spirit of the laws approved by consensus in parliament", said Carimo.
He urged citizens to show "a sense of democratic maturity", and not to exhibit any political party clothing, posters, stickers of other forms of propaganda within the vicinity of the polling station.
The voters, Carimo insisted, should be allowed "to exercise their rights without any influence, interference or coercion".
He urged election observers to work with impartiality, independence, objectivity and political neutrality, and to collaborate with the election management bodies. "The electoral law", Carimo told the observers, "gives you access to the places where the various kinds of election operations are taking place. Nobody can take this right away from you".
There should be 20,570 polling stations on Tuesday - 20,162 inside Mozambique and 408 in the nine countries where Mozambicans in the diaspora are entitled to vote.
But the CNE has already admitted that ten polling stations in districts affected by the islamist insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado will be unable to open. This deprives about 5,400 citizens of the right to vote.
The coalition of observation bodies known as "Sala da Paz" (Peace Room) is more pessimistic than the CNE, and estimates that 40 Cabo Delgado polling stations may not be able to open.
Voter turnout in parts of the central province of Manica may also be reduced because of the armed attacks attributed to the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta", a breakaway from Renamo which claims it commands the loyalty of most of the members of the Renamo militia.
According to the "Mozambique Political Process Bulletin", published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), dozens of families last week left the area of Pindanganga in Gondola district, following an assault on the local village secretary, and the destruction in an arson attack of the car of the district administrator, Moguen Candeeiro.
The displaced families have fled to Gondola town. "We have come here because the situation is becoming difficult there. There are no people left," a displaced person told the Bulletin. The Bulletin's correspondents conform that Pindanganga is deserted. 3,000 people here were registered to vote, and it is now doubtful whether they will be able to do so.
In a second Manica locality, Nhabanga, in Sussundenga district, dozens of people are reported to be leaving for fear of attacks. Their right to vote is also in question.