Renamo obstructs vote counting

2004-12-13 09:58

Maputo - Election officials were forced to break open locks to access voter registers and records to continue the slow ballot counting after members of the main opposition party disappeared with the keys, state radio reported on Saturday.

Members of both the Renamo opposition party and the ruling Frelimo party have keys to the warehouses where election materials have been stored since the December 1 and 2 presidential and parliamentary vote.

The locks can only be opened when both sets of keys are used.

But Renamo members in the northern provinces of Tete and Cabo Delgado refused to supply keys, saying the vote count was being skewed to favour the ruling party, the radio report said.

The locks were eventually broken in the presence of witnesses, state radio reported, broadcasting the sounds of snapping metal.

On Friday former rebel leader and Renamo candidate Afonso Dhlakama demanded fresh elections, accusing Frelimo of "criminal fraud" during the two days of voting.

Dhlakama accused Frelimo of preventing millions from casting their ballots by misplacing or manipulating electoral rolls in Renamo's rural strongholds in the north and central regions.

Largely free and fair

He said electoral officials grossly inflated results for the ruling party in some areas, and said police had chased away Renamo observers from some polling stations overnight after the vote.

He also demanded the dissolution of the National Electoral Commission with its executive arm and their replacement with more independent structures.

International observers have called the vote largely free and fair, despite a low turnout of between 30% and 40%.

Frelimo, which has governed since independence from Portugal in 1975, rejected Dhlakama's accusations and insisted there would be no new elections.

Dhlakama, who waged a ruinous 16-year civil war against the then-Marxist Frelimo government, has lost two previous bids for the presidency since peace was restored in 1992.

He claims the last election in 1999 was stolen from him, and has warned that he won't accept another defeat if he considers the vote wasn't free and fair.

Mozambique remains one of the world's poorest countries despite more than a decade of peace and growth.