Thursday, October 29, 2009

FRELIMO Expected to Win Elections in Mozambique

Mozambique ruling party expected to cement its rule

MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE Oct 29 2009 07:41

Voting ended on Wednesday in Mozambique's fourth democratic election, with the ruling party set to cement its 34-year rule over an opposition weakened by a recent split and a series of ballot-box losses.

Election officials and international observers said early reports indicated the vote had gone smoothly.

"No incidents have been reported so far," said Lucas Jose, spokesperson for the election administration authority.

The elections opened with long queues snaking around the school buildings used as polling stations, as voters waited patiently for their turn, then proudly brandished their inked fingers after casting their vote.

By the time polls closed at 4pm GMT, after 11 hours of voting, queues had grown shorter but stations remained open to serve voters who were waiting in lines by closing time, said Jose.

Initial estimates of voter turnout ranged from 30% to 35% by the European Union observer team to more than 50% by the regional Southern African Development Community.

Many at the polls expressed pride in their country's 15-year-old democracy.

"I lived under colonialism. I lived under the single-party system. I have lived through a lot of things. It was definitely worth it to bring democracy here," said 71-year-old Amelia Bila after casting her vote.

Seventeen parties and two coalitions are competing for nearly 10-million votes in polls tipped to sweep President Armando Guebuza and his Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo) back into power.

Guebuza, a millionaire businessman who is seeking a second and final term, was among the first people to vote shortly after 5am GMT.

"I call on all Mozambicans to participate on this important day for our republic and to do it in a spirit of celebration," Guebuza told reporters after voting in central Maputo.

Opposition ballots are likely to be divided between the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) and its breakaway Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), paving the way for Frelimo to cement its rule since independence from Portugal in 1975.

The presidential race pits Guebuza against Renamo's Afonso Dhlakama, a fourth-time presidential hopeful, and MDM founder Daviz Simango.

"I have confidence in the people. In the north, south and centre people want good government," said Dhlakama after voting.

Dhlakama has alleged voter fraud in the past elections and criticised what he calls a flawed democracy.

"The one who wins the elections should be declared the winner. We do not want to have a repeat of election disputes which happen in other countries," Dhlakama told reporters.

In the parliamentary race, Frelimo seeks to defend its 160 seats in Mozambique's 250-seat Assembly of the Republic.

The emergence of the MDM has raised the possibility of a third party winning seats in Parliament for the first time since 1994, when Mozambique held its first democratic elections.

The elections were part of a peace agreement that ended a 16-year civil war between Renamo and Frelimo's Marxist-Leninist regime.

But the MDM is running in just four of Mozambique's 13 parliamentary districts, the result of a controversial decision by the national elections commission to exclude it and 13 smaller parties on the grounds of incomplete candidate registration documents.

Only Frelimo and Renamo were approved to run in every district. -- Sapa-AFP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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