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"We've never had free and fair elections, but these are the worst yet because of the gravity of the violence," Alice Mabota, a human rights campaigner said.
As Mozambique’s Tuesday presidential election will, in all probability, see Filipe Nyusi and his ruling Frelimo party stay in power, the tensions are extremely high in the southeastern African country, where fear is widespread that the violence will continue, after it marked a campaign period during which 44 people were killed.
The United States’ embassy said Friday there are serious threats of violence in the northern Nampula province. A travel advisory was also issued for the capital of the southern Gaza province, Xai-Xai, where a prominent poll observer, Anastacio Matavel, was shot dead by a group of policemen.
"We've never had free and fair elections, but these are the worst yet because of the gravity of the violence," Alice Mabota, a human rights campaigner said. Mobota decided to run as an independent, with the support of the new Democratic Alliance Coalition, but her candidacy was blocked over allegations that some of her nomination signatures ware fake.
Renamo, the principal opposition party is expecting strong results in provincial races, which will constitute the first time provincial governors are elected and not directly selected by the president.
The party runs at the municipal level Nampula city (the second-largest city in the country after the capital Maputo), as Renamo’s leader who is his party’s presidential candidate, Ossufo Momade, is the most likely to become the next governor of the northern province. Such a victory would be the first time a politician from a party other than Frelimo leads a province since Mozambique became independent from Portugal in 1975.
However, Momade won’t have as much power as the governors used to have because the president will designate a secretary of state to work with the governors, representing the central government in the provinces, taking important decisions as well as the most important powers the governors currently have.
Renamo’s rallies have been bringing huge crowds in the north and the center of the country, according to Adriano Nuvunga, of the Center for Democracy and Development in Maputo.
"By the end of the campaign, it was not clear who is more popular between Nyusi and Momade. If the numbers we saw from the campaign were to be reflected in the elections, it would be too close to call."
����#Mozambique: Killing of activist Dr. Matavel & restrictions on civic space mar upcoming elections
The candidate’s real popularity may not, however, be reflected in the polling figures.
"The reason they murdered Anastacio Matavel was to send a warning that Gaza province is a no-go area for observers," Nuvunga said.
Light has particularly been shed on the Gaza province this year after a voter registration in April signed up to 300,000 more voters than those who live in the province.
The opposition believes these extra votes will go to the governing party.
"They will create ghost polling stations," Nuvunga said, "so, at the end of the day, we will have more tally sheets coming from Gaza than the real polling stations. They know that even with the intimidation, international observers and journalists will be there - so that is the safe way of doing it."
The violence and manipulation at these elections are "visible to the naked eye", Mabota said, "but no one does anything. Before you couldn't see the fraud. Now it's obvious - and no one says anything. I don't know what the international observers want. Oil and gas speak louder than justice and fair elections."
The elections come at a difficult time for Mozambique, a poor country with a population of 30 million.
Apart from the conflict with Renamo, the president’s first term was dominated by a corruption scandal that crushed the economy.
The scandal, dubbed “hidden debts,” was discovered by media in 2016 and Nyusi was involved in the fraud started under the previous administration as he approved the deals when he was defense minister under former President Armando Guebuza.
Manuel Chang, then-finance minister gave secret guarantees to let companies owned by the military and secret services to borrow two billion dollars with Credit Suisse and VTB Capital to buy patrol boats from Lebanese group Privinvest.
"My biggest fear is that the hidden debt scandal will benefit Frelimo - because it will make people stay away from polling stations because they're disillusioned. Anger exists, but it is not politicized enough," Nuvunga said.