Local officials unable to answer Nyusi's questions
File photo / Abdul Carimo
Mozambique’s National Elections Commission (CNE) on Thursday confirmed the victory of Paulo Vahanle, candidate of the main opposition party, the rebel movement Renamo, in the second round of the mayoral by-election in the northern city of Nampula.
The result, announced by CNE chairperson Abdul Carimo, was in no significant way different from the result announced last Friday by the Nampula District Elections Commission. Vahanle still won with almost 59 per cent of the vote, against 41 per cent for his opponent, Amisse Cololo, of the ruling Frelimo Party.
The main task of the CNE was to “requalify” (i.e. check) all the 1,242 votes declared invalid at the polling stations. Polling station staff tend to interpret strictly the rules about what constitutes an invalid vote, and throw out ballots where the voters have made slight mistakes (such as putting their mark alongside rather than inside the box beside the candidate’s portrait).
At every election the CNE rescues a significant percentage of supposedly invalid votes. This by-election was no exception – the CNE decided that in 284 of these ballots (almost 23 per cent of the total “invalid” votes), the voters had indeed made a choice. 87 of these “requalified” votes were allocated to Cololo, and 197 to Vahanle.
Thus the final result announced by the CNE was as follows:
– Total number of registered voters: 296,590
– Total number of ballots cast: 96,970 (turnout of 32.69 per cent)
– Valid votes: 95,108 (98.08 per cent)
– Blank ballots: 904 (0.93 per cent)
– Invalid votes: 958 (0.99 per cent)
Candidates (percentages are of valid votes)
– Paulo Vahanle (Renamo): 55,732 (58.6 per cent)
– Amisse Cololo (Frelimo): 39,376 (41.4 per cent)
Carimo claimed that the second round, held on 14 March, had gone smoothly and that all polling stations complied with the opening hours of 07.00 to 16.00.
This is not strictly true. Although the second round was much better organised than the first, on 24 January, when 43 per cent of the 401 polling stations opened late, there were still problems. Some polling station staff found the kits they had been sent were missing essential items, such as the indelible ink used on voters’ fingers to prevent people from voting twice. In these cases opening the station was delayed while the missing items were brought from the Nampula branch of STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Electorate).
Carimo stressed that at the voting centres, a STAE official was on duty with an electronic version of the voter register so that any voter who had lost their voter cards, but had other recognised forms of identification, could be sent to the correct polling station. But there were still a few problems with the registers, and some voters with apparently valid voter cards were unable to find their names on the register.
Speaking to reporters after the announcement, the Renamo national election agent, Andre Majibire, said the citizens of Nampula could be confident in Vahanle as their new mayor, because he would have Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama “permanently advising him”.
Dhlakama, however, lives nowhere near Nampula. Since late 2015, the Renamo leader has been living in a military base in the bush of Gorongosa, in the central province of Sofala.
The Nampula paperwork now goes to the Constitutional Council, Mozambique’s highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, which must validate and proclaim the result. Only then can Vahanle take office as the new mayor of Nampula.