Maputo — The United States Embassy in Maputo on Friday issued a eliminate declaration on the Mozambican general elections held on Monday, severely critical of irregularities and discrepancies that threatened the integrity of the elections.
The Mozambican government invited the US embassy to send an observer mission, and it deployed 25 short term observation teams to every province in the country.
The embassy's preliminary report noted that, by and large, voting on election day "appeared to be conducted peacefully and in an orderly and secure environment". The teams found that most of the polling stations opened on time (at 07.00), and that most polling station staff "worked tirelessly to carry out the voting procedures set by the National Elections Commission".
However the embassy was seriously concerned about the discrepancies "between the voter registration and census results in some areas, notably in the provinces of Gaza and Zambezia".
(As the Mozambican press has reported in detail, the voter registration figures for Gaza are impossible: the registration somehow found an extra 330,000 people in Gaza. The projection from the 2017 census is that by now there are about 836,000 people of voting age in Gaza, yet the number registered to vote in the province was an astonishing 1.166 million).
The embassy's report also stressed the violence and intimidation in the run-up to the election, particularly the assassination of civil society and election observation activist Anastacio Matavel. It added that "the inability of many reputable independent domestic observer organizations to obtain credentials also raised transparency concerns".
On election day itself, and as the vote count began, the US observers "witnessed a number of irregularities and vulnerabilities", said the report.
For instance, "at numerous polling stations in Gaza our teams noted low turnout through mid-afternoon, but results sheets posted and visible by October 16 indicated close to 100% turnout - results that would have required, in the final hours of the day, a rate of voter processing of such extraordinary alacrity that it strains credulity".
The US observers also noted "the lack of rigor applied to the district-level tabulation process, in stark contrast to the structured and deliberate voting process which was generally observed at polling stations on election day".
The observers, the report continued, "consistently reported the absence of any evident chain of custody for voting materials during the transfer from polling stations to district tabulation centres, making it difficult to confirm the integrity of vote tally documents".
They reported "disorganization and a lack of oversight in the tabulation. They saw unsealed bags holding voting materials exposed and seemingly uncontrolled, with election officials handling voting materials without the presence of party representatives or independent domestic observers".
Such examples, the report said, "raise questions about the integrity of these procedures and their vulnerability to possible fraudulent acts".
The Embassy document concluded by urging "the full and fair application of established electoral laws and dispute processes and mechanisms to resolve grievances peacefully and in a manner that reinforces confidence in Mozambique's democracy".