- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

JOHANNESBURG — The Carter Center, the international election watchdog group headed by former President Jimmy Carter, has called into question the results of elections held in Mozambique on Dec. 1-2, saying it was “very concerned about a number of irregularities.”

The report runs counter to Mr. Carter’s own pronouncement on Dec. 2 in the capital, Maputo, where he labeled the vote “almost perfect.”

On Tuesday, after nearly three weeks of counting and verification, Mozambique’s National Election Commission announced that ruling Frelimo party (Mozambique Liberation Front), which has been in power since independence from Portugal in 1976, had taken 62 percent of the vote against just 29.7 percent for the opposition Renamo (National Resistance of Mozambique).

But, yesterday, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, told The Washington Times that he backed the Carter Center’s report, charging that electoral fraud had been so widespread as to warrant a new election.

“We cannot accept these results as legitimate,” Mr. Dhlakama said. “There is wide evidence that ballot boxes were stuffed with votes for Frelimo and, in many areas, our election marshals were arrested or chased away by the police.

“And, you must remember that most police in this country are required to be members of Frelimo ,” he said.

In a presidential vote that ran alongside the parliamentary elections, Mr. Dhlakama took only 998,000 votes (31.7 percent) against more than 2 million, or 63.7 percent, for the Frelimo candidate, Armando Guebuza.

Mr. Guebuza succeeds retiring President Joaquim Chissano, who has ruled the country for 18 years.

Mr. Dhlakama called on Mr. Chissano to stay on for six months while fresh elections are conducted.

“We need a new voters roll and a full rerun or, at the very least, a two-candidate runoff between myself and Mr. Guebuza,” he said.

The election was marked by apathy with just 36 percent of registered voters taking part. However, the size of the electoral roll is thought to be exaggerated, since there is no system for removing the names of voters who have died.

Among concerns raised by the Carter Center were accusations that in some provinces there was unrealistically high voter turnout, especially in traditional Renamo strongholds of Niassa and Tete, which recorded 100 percent participation with 90 percent support for Frelimo.

The report also said that some ballot boxes appeared to have been stuffed with ruling-party votes. Renamo representatives had been arrested in several provinces while monitoring the election. A large number of Renamo ballots were disqualified after additional ink marks appeared to have been added to the papers.

A final polling-place list with registration book numbers and numbers of registered voters was never made available to political parties or observers. The election commission described the list as “a state secret.”

This is Renamo’s third defeat after losing to Frelimo in 1994 and 1999, votes Mr. Dhlakama thinks also were rigged.

“I am so confident of victory in a free election that if there is a rerun and it was judged to be free and fair, I would resign from politics if I lost the vote,” he said.



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