MAPUTO (AFP) – Mozambicans voted Wednesday in a closely-fought test for the ruling Frelimo party, which has run the southern African country since independence from Portugal in 1975, with opposition parties crying foul.
Frelimo is facing growing discontent over a wealth gap that persists despite huge mineral resources, with fast economic growth sidestepping the bulk of a population that is among the world’s poorest.
But members of the two opposition parties later claimed they had discovered attempts to stuff ballots by the ruling party.
“A young man was shot (in the feet). He tried to stop the Frelimo (local) secretary from stuffing boxes,” in central Sofala province, said Sandes Carmona, spokesman for the fledgling MDM opposition party.
In northern Nampula province, riot police used teargas to disperse a crowd that had gathered at a polling station to watch the counting, claimed the MDM representative in the area, Elias Nquiri.
Main opposition Renamo spokesman, Adriano Muchunga, claimed police opened fire in Nampula, the largest electoral province.
The electoral commission, local and foreign observers confirmed some incidents had occurred, but said on the overall, voting went on fairly smoothly.
“There have been some incidents here and there but in general the situation is under control,” Paulo Cuinica, spokesman for the national Electoral Commission told AFP, adding voting went on “smoothly”
“We noticed some irregularities, but I would say all-in-all until closing time, it was fairly okay. It was calm,” EU observer chief Judith Sargentini told AFP.
Counting started shortly after polling closed at 6pm (1600 GMT) but final results are not expected for two weeks.
Incumbent President Armando Guebuza, from Frelimo, is prohibited by the constitution from running for a third term.
So the presidential race pits Frelimo’s Filipe Nyusi, the former defence minister, against the veteran leader of former rebel group Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, and Daviz Simango, Beira city mayor and founder of the Mozambique Democratic Party (MDM).
“I am convinced of a victory,” 55-year-old Nyusi told reporters after casting his ballot. “We have worked for a long time, very hard to prepare for this election.”
Dhlakama, 61, who voted at the same polling station, has cried foul each time he lost in previous elections. But he expressed hope that this vote would be free and fair.
“Results will be accepted when they are clean. As you know on the African continent, results are often not clean,” he said.
“We hope for the first time in Mozambique results will be acceptable, proper and with credibility.”