Tensions rise in Mozambique as vote counting under way

Mozambican National Electoral Commission officers get ready to count the ballots at a school following the Mozambican general elections.

Mozambican National Electoral Commission officers get ready to count the ballots at a school following the Mozambican general elections.

AFP/Gianluigi Guercia

MAPUTO - Mozambique counted ballots 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 in August between Frelimo and Renamo, a former rebel group turned main opposition party. 

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

READ: Mozambique president praises peace after tense poll

The spokesman for election watchdog Sala da Paz, Hermenegildo Mulhovo, 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".

"So far, from the issues that have been reported, we cannot say that the process has been 100 percent free and fair," Mulhovo told AFP.

He said that police had killed a voter in the eastern city of Nampula in circumstances that were still unclear. Government officials were not immediately able to confirm the incident.

READ: Mozambique election to test fragile peace

Mozambique's electoral commission meanwhile indicated it will not publish provisional tallies as it has previously, 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."

Renamo's presidential candidate Ossufo Momade issued a warning as he voted on Tuesday. 

"If these results are manipulated we will never accept them, we do not want a return to the problems of the past," he said.

Source
AFP