Mozambique: 25 Years of Electoral Fraud, Protected By Secrecy

From declaring Joaquim Chissano president in 1999 when Afonso Dhlakama had the most votes, to naming Frelimo victor in Maputo and Matola when Renamo had most votes in 2023, Mozambique's mix of ruling party dominance and total secrecy has permitted fraud in nearly all elections. But this study shows the shape of electoral fraud has changed. For 20 years, it was increasingly organised, but remained largely covert. The image remained of free and fair elections, and that voting could bring change. In the elections in 2018, 2019 and 2023, fraud was blatant and obvious. The message was different, voting changes nothing and Frelimo decides who wins.

The shape of electoral fraud has changed over 25 years.  - In 1999 Frelimo did not expect Dhlakama to do that well, and the response appears to have panicked and not well planned. Over the next 15 years, fraud was increasingly organised, but remained largely covert. The goal was that voters should believe that elections could bring change, although Frelimo usually won.

The 2018 municipal elections were a turning point. There was no longer any attempt to claim that elections were free and fair. Fraud was no longer concealed, and press reporting was not restricted, as Frelimo flaunted its ability to steal elections. Indeed, Frelimo seemed anxious to demonstrate its power and control.

In elections in 2018, 2019 and 2023 the message changed. The theft of the 11 October 2023 municipal elections were the most well organised in Mozambique's 12 multi-party elections. The international community can still see elections and can call Mozambique a democracy, but Mozambicans know that voting changes nothing, and Frelimo cannot be challenged.

This report details how Mozambique's mix of ruling party dominance and total electoral secrecy has permitted fraud and misconduct in nearly all elections.

1999 presidential: Renamo's Afonso Dhlakama gained the most votes, but results were changed at provincial level to give victory to Frelimo's Joaquim Chissano.

2003 municipal: It took four days after the legal deadline for STAE (Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration), working in secret, to "correct" mistakes and “clean up” the results.

2004 national: Computer chaos, ballot box stuffing, first widespread invalidation of opposition votes.

2008 municipal: Tens of thousands of opposition ballot papers falsely invalidated with extra mark.

2009 presidential: The Constitutional Council (CC) acknowledged that it accepted as evidence from the National Elections Commission (CNE) secret documents which could not be seen or challenged, and which the CNE itself admitted contained major errors. The CNE in secret did not count 104,000 votes which had been stuffed in Tete and Niassa. There were at least 50,000 falsely invalidated votes.

2013 municipal: CC found illegal action by Gurué and Zambezia elections commissions and ordered rerun in Gurué. CNE admitted illegally doing its own count, ignoring provincial count.

2014 national: Law changes further politicise CNE and STAE and increase Frelimo power. More than 2100 polling stations (12% of total) with misconduct. Again, CNE did its own illegal count.

2018 municipal: Blatant fraud in 7 of 53 municipalities. In three municipalities CC declared Frelimo the winner even though Renamo had most votes. In Marromeu police confiscated ballot boxes and there was a secret count; the CC order a partial re-run, and the same thing happened. Parallel count showed Renamo won, CC said Frelimo won.

2019 national: CNE said it had registered 1,166,011 voters in Gaza, while census data showed there were only 836,581 voting age adults. President Nyusi publicly humiliated and forced the resignation of the respected head of the National Statistics Institute <Institute Nacional de Estatistica> for refusing to change census data to match the fraud. Nyusi won re-election with a margin of 3.2mn votes, but at least 557,000 were fraudulent. Civil society observation was restricted and a provincial observer coordinator was gunned down by a police death squad. Working together, CNE and CC twice in secret changed already published results.

2023 municipal: In Maputo and Matola Renamo won by large margins, but CC refused to look at the evidence, including official copies of polling station results sheets (edtais) and editas forged by elections commissions, and gave Frelimo the victory. Frelimo openly controlled both registration and polling stations. There was open false registration and preventing opposition registration. Polling station presiding officers produced false editais.

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