Maputo — The three main presidential candidates in Mozambique's general elections all voted early on Tuesday - the incumbent, Filipe Nyusi of the ruling Frelimo Party, in Maputo, the leader of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), Davis Simango, in Beira, where he is the mayor, and the leader of the main opposition party, Renamo, Ossufo Momade, in his home district of Mozambique Island, in the northern province of Nampula.
Speaking to reporters after he had cast his vote, just after 07.00, when the polling stations opened, Nyusi declared that all the conditions have been created "for the best man to win".
He said that more election observers than ever before have been accredited. "That we have gone from 10,000 observers (in 2014) to 40,000 means that the doors are open", he claimed. "Good luck to all Mozambicans and may the candidate or party that presented the best opinion, manifesto or programme win".
But although the electoral bodies say they have accredited 41,605 national observers, 3,103 observers from the independent observation bodies coordinated by EISA (Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa) had still not received credentials by the end of Monday.
Nyusi praised the Mozambican people for deciding to solve their fate through elections, which have always been held on time since 1994. "It's decided. The elections happen every five years", he said. These are Mozambique's sixth presidential and parliamentary elections, since the end of the one party state, and the third elections for members of provincial assemblies.
Nyusi urged Mozambicans to continue "marching in this way, with serenity and calm, because the country has decided for peace. This means that non-violence is becoming a culture of all of us, for our entire lives".
In Beira, a smiling Daviz Simango expressed satisfaction with the election campaign he had aged since the end of August.
He urged all registered voters to make their way to the polling stations, and warned "Those who do not vote will be governed by those whom they have not chosen".
On Mozambique Island, reporters asked Ossufo Momade if he would respect the election results. He replied "that will depend on the people's will", adding that he would not accept "manipulated results".
Like Nyusi and Simango, he called for mass participation at the polls. He urged Nyusi "to respect the will of the people".
At this Mozambique Island polling assembly, two of the polling stations were briefly closed and scuffles broke out because of allegations of ballot box stuffing.
Momade showed the independent television station STV two presidential ballot papers, marked in advance in favour of Nyusi, which Renamo had allegedly seized before they could be introduced into the ballot box.
Renamo also claimed that in Mulumbo district, in Zambezia province, it had seized ten ballot papers fraudulently marked in advance, some for the provincial and some for the presidential election.
Asked by AIM about these apparent attempts at fraud, Claudio Langa, the spokesperson for the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) said the STAE Maputo headquarters is in contact with the provincial branches of STAE "to find out what happened".
The chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, interviewed in Maputo immediately after he had voted said that between 90 and 95 per cent of the 20,162 polling stations had opened on time (at 07,00). But a final figure will not be available until later in the day.
The CNE has already admitted that ten polling stations in the northern province of Cabo Delgado will be unable to open because of the islamist insurgency in parts of that province.