November 21, 2003

MOZAMBIQUE: Frelimo wins local elections convincingly, but low turnout

The first official results from the municipal elections show that the ruling Frelimo Party has won a convincing victory. This partial official result has been compiled from polling station notices faxed from the provinces to the Maputo election headquarters. However, observers have noticed that the local elections have been marked by low voter turnout. In many places less than 15 percent of registered voters went to the election, mirroring the turnout in Mozambique's last local elections in 1998, which were boycotted by the main opposition party Renamo.

On the whole, the European Union Observer Mission has praised the conduct of the municipal elections. The EU team had stationed its observers in 29 of the 33 municipalities and managed to observe 426 polling stations (almost 20 per cent of the total). The mission praised "the constructive attitude taken by party leaders in appealing to their supporters to refrain from violence and to participate in the elections". In all the polling stations observed, the EU mission found monitors from both Frelimo and Renamo (though hardly any from the minor parties). It noted that these monitors were present throughout the count, and were all given copies of the results. "Party delegates' complaints and observations were recorded in all cases observed", the mission furthermore noted. It approved of the use of fax lines to send the polling station results to Maputo - a procedure that Renamo has however opposed in the central city of Beira.

As for the Mozambican media, the mission thought it "offered adequate coverage of the campaign and, despite minor incidents, no serious obstacles prevented journalists from informing the public freely about the programs and activities of candidates". (Agencia de Informação de Moçambique, Maputo / IRIN)

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