Maputo, 2 Dec (AIM) - As the second day of voting in Mozambique's presidential and parliamentary elections began, there were no queues in evidence at polling stations in central Maputo. Reports from journalists across the country also indicated a very light turnout, leading to fears of a high abstention rate. On Wednesday, there were long queues early in the morning, but these had disappeared by midday.
A significant number of voters in parts of northern and central Mozambique are at risk of disenfranchisement because access roads have been cut by rains or swollen rivers. On Wednesday afternoon, the spokesperson for the National Elections Commission (CNE), Filipe Mandlate, admitted that these logistical problems had delayed the start of voting in parts of Tete, Zambezia, Niassa, Nampula and Cabo Delgado provinces.
In the western province of Tete, for instance, there were problems in Zumbo, Magoe, Chifunde and Mutarara districts.
Mandlate insisted that all possible measures were being taken to overcome the problems and open the polling stations. The worst affected district in Nampula, Memba, started the day with 31 polling stations unable to open, By 15.00, ten of these stations had opened, leaving 21 still closed.
Of the 12,774 polling stations in the country, Mandlate thought that, by 15.00 on Wednesday, less than 100 had failed to open. However, one report reaching AIM was that by midday not a single polling station (out of a total of 132) had opened in the district of Pebane, in the central province of Zambezia.
There were also known to be problems in the Zambezia districts of Ile, Morrumbala and Maganja da Costa, in parts of Chiure and Montepuez in Cabo Delgado, in Erati in Nampula, and in Cuamba in Niassa.
In early December it is virtually certain to be raining heavily somewhere in Mozambique. Holding elections under these conditions is a huge gamble. In 1999, when the elections were held on 3-5 December, the electoral bodies were lucky. Only parts of Zambezia were severely affected by rain, and in the end only eight polling stations were unable to open.
This year the situation is much worse.
Maputo, 1 Dec (AIM) - Both the main candidates in Mozambique's presidential elections, the general secretary of the ruling Frelimo Party, Armando Guebuza, and the leader of Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, expressed confidence in victory when speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
Immediately after casting his vote in a polling station in a Maputo primary school, Guebuza told reporters he believed the result would reflect the great enthusiasm that had characterised Frelimo rallies during the six week election campaign, and the trust that Frelimo members and supporters had deposited in him. Asked what changes he would make, if he wins the election and forms the next government, Guebuza said he would benefit from his long political experience to accelerate the battle against corruption, red tape, and the other ills that affect Mozambican society.
1 December is also World AIDS Day, and Guebuza said all efforts must be made to allow people to defend themselves from the disease. He regarded it as a priority to support citizens infected with the HIV virus, to provide anti-retroviral treatment for HIV positive people, and to assist orphans whose parents succumbed to AIDS.
Dhlakama claimed that long queues early in the morning showed that voters were demanding a change, and he predicted that in "free, fair and transparent elections", he would win. He repeated his claim that both previous general elections (in 1994 and 1999) were characterised by irregularities and fraud in vote tabulation "with the purpose of corrupting the final result in order to damage Dhlakama".
He stated that he and Renamo constitute the only force able to make changes and to continue development programmes begun by Frelimo. "Should I be elected I shall give priority to health, education, housing, transport, and opportunities for young people, as well as ensuring the genuine rule of law in Mozambique", said Dhlakama.
He said there would be "no return to war" - which contrasts sharply with the belligerent noises he was making a few days ago in interviews with the Portuguese media, in which he threatened to take power by force in those provinces where Renamo secured a majority of votes, if he felt the elections were "not democratic".
Speaking to a Mozambican rather than a Portuguese audience, Dhlakama took a markedly more conciliatory line. "It doesn't matter who wins", he said. "I just want the observers to be capable of guaranteeing free, fair and transparent elections".
The director of the Renamo election office, Eduardo Namburete, was also confident that his party would win. He based this optimism on the large crowds that Renamo had drawn to its campaign rallies. "Those who lose should know how to lose", he said. "This is a democratic game, and those who win have won. But they must not humiliate anyone else. There must be respect for the human person".
However, Namburete claimed there had been irregularities in Wednesday's vote, citing a case in which a citizen had allegedly voted, without his name figuring on the electoral roll. "This is something that concerns us, because if the same thing happens in other places, it means that this voting was fraudulent", he said. "We shall channel this complaint in accordance with the law and we'll see how it will be solved".
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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