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January 24, 2005
Questions in Mozambique follow Dec. elections
BY Kay Torrance, assistant director of public information for the Carter Center.
Late into the night on Dec. 2, 2004, Carter Center observers phoned in their observations from provinces outside Mozambique’s capital of Maputo, as election officials sorted presidential election ballots into the wee hours of the morning.
Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, watched a poll closing at a school on the outskirts of Maputo as the sun fell below the horizon. President Carter observed at a polling station in one classroom, Mrs. Carter at another down the hall. Each saw a poll worker draw a tally sheet with a felt marker on the floor as other election officials meticulously counted and recounted the ballots.
Earlier in the week, the Carter Center’s delegation of 60 observers had deployed throughout the country. As they traveled to their assigned provinces, the delegation’s leadership—the Carters and former Benin President Nicéphore Soglo, along with David Pottie of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program and field representative Nicolás Bravo—met in Maputo with the candidates, outgoing President Joaquim Chissano and the National Elections Commission.
As Mozambique finished the second and final day of voting in its presidential elections, the island nation off the southeast African coast faced serious challenges in its efforts to deepen democracy, despite remarkable progress since its independence in 1975 and the end of a brutal civil war in 1992.
When it gained independence after more than four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique was one of the world’s poorest countries. Large-scale emigration by whites, economic dependence on South Africa, severe drought and prolonged internal conflict hindered the country’s development. The United Nations negotiated a peace agreement between the government and rebel forces in 1992, ending the fighting.
Then, during the 1990s, Mozambique’s record growth was the envy of many developing countries. The government embarked on a series of economic reforms in 1987 to stabilize the economy; much of the country’s basic social and economic infrastructure had been devastated by the war. The reforms, along with foreign assistance and the move to multiparty elections, helped lower inflation and spark investment, though Mozambique remains dependent on foreign aid.
The country has since achieved notable success in rebuilding the economy and holding regular multiparty elections. The Carter Center observed its 1999 presidential elections—Mozambique’s first election since the peace agreement—and found the voting process was peaceful and orderly, though problems were noted with processing complaints, delayed poll openings, intimidation of some opposition party members and a lack of transparency in processing the final vote count.
When the 2004 election observers returned to Maputo on Dec. 3, they shared their findings. Of nearly 1,000 polling stations in all 10 provinces and the capital city, observers found most of sites to be well organized, fully staffed with poll workers and election materials, and functioning effectively. Voter turnout, however, was low.
The Carter Center observed procedural irregularities during the tabulation of votes, but they were not significant enough to alter the overall result. Armando Guebuza of the ruling Frelimo party won 63 percent of the vote for president, followed by the opposition Renamo party’s Afonso Dhlakama with 32 percent. However, despite the center’s findings, Renamo has rejected the results, leaving Mozambique’s democracy facing a more uncertain future than expected.
Kay Torrance is assistant director of public information for the Carter Center.