Maputo, 19 Nov (AIM) - Polling stations in central Maputo opened on time on Wednesday for Mozambique's second municipal elections, and the build-up of queues indicated that this time there will be a reasonable turnout.
The orderly and efficient scenes at the polling stations contrasted with the chaos that had marked the first local elections in 1998. Then all polling stations in Maputo had opened hours late, and in many cases the polling station staff had to use hammers to smash open padlocks on the trunks containing the voting materials.
The late opening and the disorganisation, plus a boycott by the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, ensured that turnout in 1998 was miserably low. Less than 15 per cent of the municipal electorate voted.
This time everything seems to be running smoothly for the one day election. Polls opened at 07.00, and are due to close at 18.00 - though anyone still in the queue at that time will be allowed to vote.
Polite polling station staff checked the identity of each voter against the electoral register. Each polling station has a register which, in principle, should not contain more than 1,000 names.
Once his or her right to vote was confirmed, the voter received the two ballot papers - one for the mayor, and the other for the municipal assembly. A staff member explained how to fill in the ballot papers, and deposit them in the ballot boxes.
Once citizens have voted, one of their fingers is dipped in indelible ink - a safeguard to ensure that no-one can vote more than once, since no ballot papers are given to people who already have inky fingers.
At the polling stations visited by AIM, monitors representing at least some of the candidates and parties contesting the election were at hand, watching all the proceedings.
Police were also present to deal with any disturbances, though there was no indication that they would be needed.
The 33 municipalities have between them 2,687 polling stations. Each should be staffed by five people, giving a total of 13,435 polling station staff. The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service, trained the staff over a fortnight earlier this month.
As by far the largest municipality, Maputo City has the largest number of polling stations - 674, staffed by 3,370 people.
Maputo, 19 Nov (AIM) - President Joaquim Chissano has urged the country's municipal electorate to turn out en masse for the second local elections on Wednesday.
In a broadcast to the nation on Tuesday night, President Chissano described the municipal elections as "a high point in the exercise of citizenship and of participatory democracy".
Municipalisation, he said, "is one of the ways of bringing the administration closer to society, allowing citizens to participate in the development and management of local public property".
President Chissano argued that the first five years of directly elected municipal bodies "leads us to conclude that municipalisation continues to be the best way to achieve local development through the mobilisation and participation of the citizens residing in the cities and towns with municipal status in actions to fight against absolute poverty and to improve living conditions".
He declared that using the right to vote is "a civic duty for all of us", and urged all registered voters "to go en masse and in an orderly fashion to the polling stations".
He urged the electorate to maintain "the high level of civic spirit and order" which had dominated the election campaign.
President Chissano himself voted shortly after polls had opened at a polling station in a central Maputo secondary school. He then set off on a trip that will take him, in quick succession, to Libya, Ethiopia and Cameroon.
Maputo, 19 Nov (AIM) - The MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo has denied a claim in some of the Mozambican press that it is denying its workers the right to vote in Wednesday's local elections.
The smelter is located in Boane district, which is not covered by the municipal elections - but most of the MOZAL workers live in Maputo and Matola cities, and are fully entitled to vote.
A statement from the MOZAL management points out that the smelter operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thus, although the Ministry of Labour has announced that Wednesday is an ad-hoc public holiday, and most companies will be closed for the day, this cannot possibly apply to factories such as MOZAL, which depend on continual processes.
Any significant interruption to the smelter operations, the statement warns, would lead to "incalculable financial and material losses, not only for MOZAL, but also for the national economy".
But this does not mean that the workers cannot vote. For those directly involved in the production process there are three eight hour shifts, starting at 06.00, 14.00 and 22.00. Since the polling stations are open from 07.00 to 18.00, it should not be difficult for any of these shift workers to exercise their right to vote.
As for the administrative staff, their normal working day runs from 07.00 to 16.30. On Wednesday it will end at 15.00, to allow these workers to vote. The company will provide them with the normal transport into Maputo.
The training shift, which normally starts at 10.30, has been cancelled on Wednesday, to allow the trainees the opportunity to vote.
Maputo, 19 Nov (AIM) - The Mozambican National Elections Commission (CNE) has decided that local elections in the town of Mocuba, in the central province of Zambezia, must take place on Wednesday as scheduled.
The CNE has thus rejected the application from the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union's mayoral candidate, Jose Manteigas, for a postponement of the election, for at least 13 days, to allow him time to carry out his electoral campaign.
Manteigas had been disqualified by the CNE for alleged falsification of papers proving that he is a resident of Mocuba.
But the newly established Constitutional Council, which has the final word in election disputes, on Monday overturned the CNE decision, thus allowing Manteigas to run.
The CNE met throughout Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Mocuba issue. In rejecting the application for a postponement, the CNE argued that the Constitutional Council's decision in favour of Manteigas was exactly to make sure that the vote in Mocuba takes place on 19 November as scheduled.
But the CNE added that, in accordance with the law, Manteigas and his party may yet file an appeal with the Constitutional Council if they so wish. (But it is clear that the Council would not be able to rule on that appeal until after the elections have taken place.) The chairperson of the Mocuba District Elections Commission, Jose Carlos, said that everything has been set up for the election. The distribution of voting materials to the 38 Mocuba polling stations started on Tuesday night, so that voting could begin, as scheduled, at 07.00 on Wednesday morning.
Contracts have also been signed with the 209 polling station staff in Mocuba, and 46 observers (42 Mozambicans and 4 foreigners) have been accredited in this municipality.
Renamo's demand for a postponement is undermined by the fact that it did campaign in Mocuba. Last week the party's leader, Afonso Dhlakama, visited the town, and urged the voters to turn out en masse, and vote, regardless of whether the Constitutional Council reinstated Manteigas.
For the election is not just for mayor, but also for the members of the Municipal Assembly. Dhlakama urged voters to give Renamo a majority on the Assembly, so that it could tie the hands of the Frelimo candidate should he be elected mayor.
Beira (Mozambique), 19 Nov (AIM) - Voting in Mozambique's local elections began normally in the country's second largest city, Beira.
As far as AIM could ascertain, all the 260 polling stations in the city opened on time at 07.00, and significant queues of voters built up to cast their ballots. Some began queuing up to two hours before the polling stations opened.
Sofala Provincial Governor Felicio Zacarias was one of the first to vote, in a symbolic ceremony, that marked the start of voting in the three municipalities in the province - Beira, Dondo and Marromeu.
The governor expressed satisfaction at the smooth running of the polling station where he voted. "The voting has started very well", he said. "I didn't see any anomalies".
He took the opportunity to repeat his appeal to all registered voters to go to the polling stations and exercise their right to vote.
The Beira first secretary of the ruling Frelimo Party, Luis Juga, the Sofala provincial delegate of the main opposition party, Renamo, Manuel Pereira, and independent candidate for mayor, Antonio Romao, all said they were impressed at the apparently large turnout.
Romao said that at his polling station, the initial turnout was so large, that some people left the lengthy queues, saying they would come back later in the day, when they might not have to wait in line so long.
Also satisfied was the Sofala provincial police command. A police spokesman told AIM that the atmosphere at the polling stations was positive, with the voters behaving in an orderly manner.
"We urge people to keep up this civic spirit", he said, warning that the police would remain on the lookout for any disturbance.
Milange (Mozambique), 19 Nov (AIM) - Voting in Mozambique's second local elections in the small central town of Milange, near the border with Malawi, began in a calm and orderly fashion with a considerable number of voters making their way to the polling stations early on Wednesday morning.
Milange is one of the smallest of Mozambique's 33 municipalities, with only some 11,930 voters registered. There are 13 polling stations - four in the Milange Secondary School, four in one of the primary schools, and four in a residential area.
Voting began on time, at 07.00, in the presence of monitors representing the candidates and parties contesting the elections, and local and foreign observers.
Speaking to reporters immediately after he had cast his vote, the Milange district administrator, Cristen Consul, said he was satisfied at the tranquil way in which the electorate was behaving.
"I hope that this calm atmosphere continues to the end, and that we have no violence", he said.
He was pleased at the apparently healthy turnout, which meant "people are aware that it is only by casting their votes that they can choose, in a conscious way, their municipal leaders".
AIM visited all three assemblies of polling stations, and verified that turnout did indeed seem substantial, and that all was taking place in an orderly manner.
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