Tensions rise in Mozambique as vote counting under way

MAPUTO (AFP) – Mozambique counted ballots on Wednesday following its high-stakes election, as tensions spiked over claims of voting irregularities and concerns that results will not be revealed for days.

President Filipe Nyusi’s Frelimo party, which has ruled the southern African country since independence from Portugal in 1975, is widely expected to win the polls held on Tuesday.

The vote has been seen as a key test of a peace deal sealed back in August between former civil war foes Frelimo and Renamo, a rebel group turned main opposition party.

While voting day appeared mostly calm, civil society groups said they found evidence of suspected election rigging, including several attempts to stuff ballots and election observers being kicked out of polling stations.

Election watchdog Sala da Paz said police fired tear gas and warning shots in the central province of Nampula – a Renamo stronghold – after opposition supporters refused to leave polling premises to “protect their vote”.

An official counts votes after polling station closed in Maputo, Mozambique. PHOTO: AP

“So far, from the issues that have been reported, we cannot say that the process has been 100 percent free and fair,” Sala da Paz spokesman Hermenegildo Mulhovo told AFP. He said that police had killed a voter in Nampula city, the provincial capital, in circumstances that were still unclear.

The authorities were not immediately able to confirm the incident, but said 73 people had been arrested for “disturbances in polling stations”.

Mozambique’s electoral commission meanwhile indicated it will not publish provisional tallies as it has in the past, only committing to releasing the final results within the mandated 15-day period after the vote.

“The more they delay publishing the results, the more you create lack of trust and risks of tensions,” Mulhovo said.

“Most of the problems and irregularities happen after the vote, during the counting process.”