Ruling party takes lead in Mozambique local elections

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A woman casts her ballot for Mozambique's local elections at a polling station in the capital Maputo, Mozambique. (File, AFP)
A woman casts her ballot for Mozambique's local elections at a polling station in the capital Maputo, Mozambique. (File, AFP)

Mozambique's ruling Frelimo party took a clear lead in early results from local polls, official data shown on Thursday, as the Renamo opposition looked to gain ground ahead of next year's general election.

With 18 declared results in the 53 municipalities, Frelimo had secured 17 wins against just one for Renamo after Wednesday's vote. Counting continued in many areas where the race was close.

Frelimo has ruled Mozambique since its independence from Portugal in 1975.

"These results are provisional and do not cover the whole country. We call on competitors and citizens to wait calmly for the final results," said Paulo Cuinica, spokesperson for the National Election Commission.

The election had threatened to inflame tensions in Mozambique, where Renamo fought a brutal 16-year civil war against the Frelimo government before fighting stopped in 1992.

Renamo has maintained an armed wing since the civil war, and unrest again erupted between 2013 and 2016.

Renamo, which boycotted the last local poll in 2013, has alleged fraud and police intimidation of its supporters during the election.

The vote has been seen as a test of progress in the peace process after recent talks between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo's acting leader Ossufo Momade.

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