Mozambique: Some Polling Stations Record Impossible Turnouts

Renamo leader Ossufo Momade is reported to have shown journalists evidence of attempted fraud and declared that his party "would do whatever the people want them to", without elaborating on the warning.

Maputo — Results sheets from a considerable number of polling stations in Mozambique's general elections held on Tuesday indicate that an impossible hundred per cent of the registered voters cast their ballots, reports the latest issue of the "Mozambique Political Process Bulletin", published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP).

Although the voter registration was in the recent past (15 April to 30 May), it clearly defies belief that among the 800 or so people registered in any polling station, not one of them has died since registration, not one was too ill to travel, and not one had travelled away from the district.

Almost as unbelievable are the polling station result sheets which claim that between 90 and 100 per cent of those registered at the station voted. It seems that overall turnout in the election was around 50 per cent. So any polling station which claims a turnout of 90 per cent or more sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

An obviously fraudulent result cited by the bulletin came from polling station 092012-02, where all 800 registered voters supposedly voted in the presidential election - 799 of them voting for incumbent president Filipe Nyusi, and just one for Ossufo Momade, of the main opposition party, Renamo. There were no votes at all for Daviz Simango, of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), and no blank or invalid votes.

The "100 per cent" polling stations are found mainly in Gaza, the Bulletin reports, but also in parts of Tete, Nampula and Cabo Delgado provinces. Even one station in Maputo city reported this impossible turnout. (In previous elections, the bulk of the "100 per cent" stations came from Tete, particularly Changara district).

Another, by now traditional, form of fraud is to invalidate a ballot paper by adding an ink mark, thus making it seem as if the voter concerned has tried to vote for two or more candidates. In past elections, the electoral bodies have vigorously criticised this dishonest behaviour by polling station staff, but nobody has ever been arrested for it.

Measures now in force include removing all inky objects from the polling station table before the count begins, and obliging staff with dirty hands to wash them. Nonetheless, there are still cases reported of this type of fraud, and occasionally dishonest staff are caught in the act.

Thus in one polling station in the Zambezia district of Chinde, the polling station chairperson, Angelo Moniz, was detained after he was caught adding fingerprints to Renamo votes. He had dyed his hair and had transferred the dye to his finger to make the extra marks. The police detained him, but later released him.

This type of fraud can be readily detected because it results in abnormally high numbers of invalid votes. It is normal for there to be a few invalid votes at any polling station (these include ballot papers where the voter really has tried to vote for more than one candidate, where he has added slogans or insults, or where he has signed his name).

But when invalid votes are more than three per cent of the total, suspicion is in order, and when the number goes to more than five per cent, those votes are almost certainly fraudulent. But the Bulletin notes cases in this election of polling stations reporting more than 10 per cent invalid votes, and in one even 32 per cent.

A new form of fraud, reported by the Bulletin, is that observers aligned with the ruling Frelimo Party are alleged to have voted several times. A provision in the law allows observers (like journalists and policemen) to vote at any polling station they are working in.

The Bulletin claims the observers from the National Youth Council (CNJ) abused this right to a "special vote" to vote at several different polling stations in Mopeia and Inhassunge districts, in Zambezia.

But for this to work, polling station staff must ignore the basic safeguards of the indelible ink applied to the index finger of every voter after casting his or her ballot. Before receiving a ballot paper, the voter must show his or her hands so that staff can check there is no ink on them, and that he or she has not voted already.

This story strains belief because it suggests that literally dozens of polling station staff failed to apply the ink, or failed to check the hands of several hundred CNJ observers.

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