Votes being counted in Mozambique

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Counting was underway in Mozambique on Tuesday in an election which the president said should anchor peace, while his opposition warned against result manipulation.

The presidential, legislative and provincial polls will test the two-month-old peace deal between the ruling Frelimo party and its civil war foe turned political rival Renamo.

“Mozambique has chosen peace,” President Filipe Nyusi said after voting at a school in Maputo. He praised Mozambicans for deciding their destiny in elections and called for peace and calm to continue.

Carlos Alberto, a 22-year-old student waiting to vote said he wanted to see parliament hold the executive to account and push through promised reforms in education, work, housing and other areas.

“We vote and then nothing happens,” he said of his country, which has only known one party in power since independence from Portugal in 1975. Like Alberto, most of the 13 million registered voters were born after that date.

“We need to make some changes,” he said.

A corruption scandal over government borrowing has hit the economy and damaged Nyusi’s popularity.

A low-level Islamist insurgency in the north, on the doorstep of billion-dollar gas projects being developed by oil majors including Exxon Mobile Corp and Total SA , has taken the shine off Nyusi’s presidency and threatens security in the longer term.

Human Rights Watch decried the closure of 10 polling stations owing to insecurity in northern Mozambique where the insurgency has a foothold.

FRAGILE TRUCE

Outside Mozambique’s remote north, the main security risk is from a disgruntled opposition.

“If the vote is manipulated, we will never accept it,” Renamo presidential candidate and party leader Ossufo Momade said after casting his ballot in Nampula, in the north.

“We will do whatever we can do, if the people want us to,” he said, without elaborating on the warning.

Momade is seen by analysts as less likely to turn to violence than his predecessor, but also less able to control the party and supporters.

Renamo fought Frelimo for 16 years from 1977 to 1992 in a Cold War conflict that killed about a million people. It ended in a truce but sporadic violence has flared since – including after Renamo challenged election results in 2014.

Under the peace deal signed in August, provincial governors will be chosen by the main party in each province, rather than government in Maputo – an opportunity for Renamo to gain representation.

Factionalism in Renamo and the fading popularity of its leader could make winning the number of provinces it wants a tall order.

Polls were officially closed at 6 pm. The law allows 15 days for results to be announced, though they may come sooner. Both opposition parties — Renamo and young challenger the MDM —made allegations of vote rigging.



The run-up to the vote was marked by sporadic violence, including the killing of an election observer and attacks from a breakaway group of Renamo fighters, with one person reported killed.