Maputo – Only seven of the 20,162 polling stations in Mozambique failed to open on Tuesday morning for the country’s general and provincial elections, according to Felisberto Naife, the general director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, Naife said that the seven polling stations were all in areas affected by the Islamist insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, in Macomia, Mocimboa da Praia and Muidumbe districts.
This is better than STAE had feared. At the weekend, it was thought that 10 Cabo Delgado polling stations would be unable to open, but in the event, this number was cut to seven.
In addition to the stations inside Mozambique, 408 polling stations set up in the nine countries in the diaspora where Mozambicans have the right to vote all opened. Naife said there had been problems with monitors from the main opposition party, Renamo, in some stations in South Africa and Eswatini. But after STAE intervention, the Renamo monitors were able to continue their work.
Asked about apparent instances of fraud in which people have been caught with extra ballot papers in several parts of the country (such as Mocuba and Mulumbo districts in Zambezia province, and Angoche and Mozambique Island in Nampula), Naife at first brushed this aside, saying that no formal complaints have yet been made to STAE.
When reporters insisted, pointing out that photos of the supposedly fraudulent ballot papers have gone round the world via the internet and thus threaten the international credibility of the elections, he admitted it was a serious problem.
But STAE headquarters in Maputo could not be expected to settle every election dispute. The first line of protest, he said, should be to the local STAE offices, and to the district courts, which during the election period are working 24 hours a day.
Naife said there should be a through investigation of these cases, starting with ascertaining whether the extra ballot papers are authentic.