Mozambique News Agency

Election update


Maputo, 3 Dec (AIM) - Polling stations in central Maputo opened on time on Friday morning for Mozambique's second multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections.

At the first polling station visited by this AIM reporter, the electoral staff opened the ballot boxes (to show that they were empty) at exactly 07.00. Three minutes later this polling station was ready to receive its first voter.

This is in sharp contrast both with the 1994 general elections when, in general, polling stations did not open on time, and with the 1998 local elections when Maputo polling stations opened hours late, some of them not until the afternoon.

Large crowds had already gathered outside the polling centres by 07.00, thus dispelling fears that there might be a high level of abstention.

The polling centres visited by AIM contain up to eight separate polling stations. The staff tried to organise impatient voters into queues for each polling stations, giving them tickets to mark their places in the queue.

After some initial jostling and shouting, the crowds settled down into good-humoured and orderly lines of voters, chatting and reading newspapers as they waited their turn to cast their ballots. Paper sellers were doing a roaring trade outside the polling stations.

Far from pouring with rain, as had been feared, there was bright sunshine in Maputo, encouraging a large turn-out.

Inside the polling stations observed by AIM, the staff were efficient and courteous. Each voter was first asked to show his or her hands, to see if there were any traces of the indelible ink used to show that a citizen has already voted. Then their voting cards were checked against the electoral register, before they received the ballot papers, a small one, with two names, for the presidential election, and a larger one, with 12 names of parties or coalitions, for the parliamentary election.

After each voter had marked their ballot papers in the privacy of the polling booth, folded and deposited them in the ballot boxes, a member of the polling station staff dipped one of his or her fingers in the indelible red ink.

AIM timed the entire procedure. It took between one and a half and three and a half minutes per voter, depending largely on the amount of time the voter spent in the polling booth. Since each polling station has two polling booths, it is perfectly possible for a polling station to process 50-60 voters in an hour, or well over 500 in a day.

This AIM reporter visited eight polling stations in three different polling centres during the first hour of voting. Political party representatives monitoring the poll were present in all of them.

The ruling Frelimo Party had monitors at all eight, and the main opposition force, the former rebel movement Renamo, in six. There was no sign of any of the minor parties.


Maputo, 3 Dec (AIM) - Antonio Carrasco, general director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral arm of the Mozambican civil service, told reporters on Thursday evening that everything was ready for the country's second multi-party general elections to begin smoothly on Friday.

"All the conditions have been established for the voters to exercise their right to vote", he said.

But Carrasco admitted that the poor conditions of access roads were making it difficult to dispatch election materials to some remote areas in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. This means that a few Cabo Delgado polling stations "may open late".

He added that the heavy rains which have fallen in the central provinces of Zambezia and Sofala had created some problems. Thus on Thursday four STAE vehicles carrying election materials had become stuck in thick mud, and had to be dug out.

But he was optimistic that these election materials would reach their destinations overnight with the help of helicopters.

"We are redoubling our efforts to use the helicopters to support those provinces which are facing some difficulties", he said.

This air support comes from the South African armed forces (SANDF), which have deployed seven helicopters and two light aircraft to assist STAE.

Even with the use of helicopters, there are four polling stations in Manica province which had not received their election materials by Thursday, according to a report in Friday's issue of the Maputo paper "Noticias".

Of the 499 polling stations in Manica, 14 can only be reached by air. Ten of these were covered in due time by the helicopters, but in the other four the helicopters were unable to land because of heavy rains on Wednesday.

But Manica STAE director Filimone Zuro hoped that, since it did not rain on Thursday, it would be possible to fly in the materials early on Friday morning.

The police force too say they are in full readiness for the elections. Police spokesman Gen Miguel dos Santos told reporters that the police have inspected all the more than 8,300 polling stations, and policemen are in position to avoid any disorder.

Police escorted the election materials to the polling stations, and will guard the ballot boxes overnight.

The head of police public relations, Nataniel Macamo, interviewed on Mozambican Television (TVM) on Thursday night, denied a rumour that Mozambique's borders will be closed during the two day election.

Movement across the borders would continue as normal, he said.

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