Journalists and statisticians are trying to determine if Mozambique opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama was cheated out of the presidency, or if he is just a bad loser, write Joseph Hanlon and Johan Ahlback.
Mozambique is usually cited as one of Africa’s post-conflict success stories. The civil war ended in 1992 and Renamo’s guerrilla force was transformed into the opposition in parliament. Renamo head Afonso Dhlakama has contested and lost all five multi-party presidential elections, but he says he won them all and was cheated. Renamo guerrillas began shooting at traffic on the main north-south road in mid-February, and Dhlakama promises an armed takeover of government in six provinces in March.
Losers often claim fraud, and it is not just an Africa problem. In the 1941 US film Citizen Kane, newspaper owner Charles Foster Kane is standing for governor. Between the closure of the polls and the announcement of the results, the newspaper awaits with two possible front pages. One is headlined “KANE ELECTED”; the other says “FRAUD AT POLLS!”
Mozambique is unusual in that the press is free and elections are quite transparent. Counting is done at each polling station, observed by parties and media, and the results posted, making parallel counts possible. For the past few elections, Joseph Hanlon edited an election newsletter. More than 100 Mozambican journalists in all parts of the country, many from community radio stations, reported on the campaign, voting and counting. And they reported misconduct. Former liberation movement Frelimo has won all national elections (although the opposition has won local elections in some cities) and it used its predominant position. During the campaign, Frelimo candidates used state cars and police harassed the opposition. But in each election, we reported this in detail, for example with the registration number of state cars being used, names of people arrested, and so on. In this era of mobile phones the response was rapid; there were phone calls for the capital, Maputo, and misconduct was toned down. We reported voting fraud, notably ballot box stuffing and invalidating opposition ballot papers to increase the Frelimo vote – which led to changes in the law.
In 2013 local elections, district and provincial election officials changed the results in the town of Gurué to give the victory to Frelimo. Our reports and the parallel count showed an opposition win. The Constitutional Council, under media pressure, overturned the result and forced a rerun of the election, which was won by the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement.
Dhlakama came second in all five presidential elections. Was the fraud enough to have deprived him of the presidency? He is convinced it was and 24 years after the peace accord he has decided to use guns to take the power he thinks he deserves.
But did Dhlakama ever really win? There is a growing area of statistical election forensics and Johan Ahlback has applied statistical tests to the four elections for which we have data. He finds that 1994 and 1999 elections seem clean, and that while ballot box stuffing and invalidation of opposition ballot papers did take place in both 2004 and 2009, it appear much more prevalent in 2009.
We are presenting a LSE Public Lecture to explain our work on Mozambique elections on Wednesday 16 March, at 6.30 pm in the LSE Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, on the Aldwych.
So, the obvious question: It is possible Dhlakama won? We don’t think so. In the 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections, Dhlakama never won more than 37 per cent of the vote. It would have required massive fraud, involving more than half a million votes, to close that gap. We see fraud, but not massive fraud.
We think the statistics show Frelimo would have convincingly won fair elections. However, the growing fraud suggests that some in Frelimo are increasingly worried that the party cannot win an honest election. And our journalists report those responsible for misconduct are promoted rather than chastised. Afonso Dhlakama is convinced that he won all five elections, and the obvious misconduct only adds to that belief. As Renamo returns to violence, Frelimo and all Mozambicans will see that unnecessary cheating has a higher than expected price.
Joseph Hanlon is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of International Development at LSE and editor of the Mozambique Political Process Bulletin.
Johan Ahlback is a PhD student in the Department of Government at LSE.
The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and in no way reflect those of the Africa at LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Dr Hanlon has for a long time now been arguing that the ‘irregularities’ that do take place during Mozambique’s elections do not significantly alter the final results, ultimately according victory to the ruling party. He now refers to cases of ‘fraud’, but as in the past, the numbers are supposedly insignificant.
The PhD student in the Department of Government at LSE, who has assisted in Dr. Hanlon’s findings, is said to have applied statistical tests to a number of polls held in Mozambique. The tests reportedly concur with Dr. Hanlon’s rationale.
It would be interesting to learn if Dr Hanlon and his team have always been physically present at every polling station in the country. In the last general elections, the number of polling stations increased substantially, from 9,000 to 17,200. In the Nampula constituency, one of the largest in the country, observers failed to reach polling stations in remote areas of the country because the electoral bodies had not accredited them. Was Dr. Hanlon’s team able to reach these areas? and what evidence can he produce to show that his team was physically present in every constituency?
A Free Thinker from Mozambique
In a misrepresentation of the facts, Mr. J. Hanlon is seeking to portray the fraudulent elections that have been held in Mozambique since 1994 as a dispute between Renamo and Frelimo – led Government of Mozambique.
That is far from the truth .
As a matter of fact, what we have been witnessing in Mozambique is a dispute between the opposition as whole and the Government when it comes to elections.
In the light of available evidence , elections in Mozambique cannot even remotely be equated with transparency.
After voting, counting of what has been deposited in the ballot boxes starts late at around 21:00hrs or even later in certain cases. At this hour, Renamo does not have enough funds to make sure that its members stay at the Polling Station to observe results. These people, having been at the polling station from the day before the elections with little or no sustenance, then go off in search of food or water. When they leave, many things can happen to the ballot papers. My personal experience working as an MMV has taught me that a miracle is required for an opposition party to win in Mozambique. There is a lot of investment needed. MDM has tried this out. When it comes to one to one (MDM vs Frelimo) where Renamo is out, for instance the Municipal elections, if these were done city after city, we would, probably, have seen many cities under another party’s control. If Presidential elections were done province by province, whereby each party concentrates its energy on the province, I think something strange would come out. But since the throwing of the dice is scattered, control is lost and this where the “so-called” Fraud comes in may be.
I am really fascinated by this idea. I have been thinking of this. Even though it would be quite expensive this system of elections, it could be better than the violent conflicts that happen after elections.
Dr Joseph Hanlon’s views on the Mozambican electoral process does not match the reality on the ground. He clearly suggests that the fraudulent practices which he knows about are the only ones that have taken place in Mozambique, hence his assertion that the opposition’s claims of widespread vote rigging are unfounded. The views aired by Alice Mabota, chairperson of the Mozambique Human Rights League, in connection with the 20123 local government elections – in which Renamo did not take part – tell a different story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdRZafotlFA). Did Dr Hanlon take into account the malpractices exposed by an opposition member – again, not from the Renamo party – in a Maputo constituency during the same polls before he came to the conclusion that Mozambique’s elections “are quite transparent” ? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JKysQTXW8c )
And what about the statements by a member of the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR), who came forward with startling revelations published jointly by the reputable weeklies, Savana and @Verdade, in Maputo last week? Here is the translation of an excerpt of what the FIR operative stated in connection with the 2014 general elections:
“12 October 2014, the day we went to steal ballot papers in Nampula. It was at the Belenenses High School . We went on a flight with SISE (State Intelligence and Security Service) men dressed in suits. There were reconnaissance people, their hair plaited as if they were vagrants. They were given a task – go about and cause unrest because this is Renamo’s area of influence. In order for us to evict people from the area, our colleagues in civvies moved in first, they were the ones with plaited hair and in rags. They stood in line and started inciting those present: “Here, Frelimo must lose”. When someone tried to react, that’s when confusion would ensue. It’s quite easy to stir up the Makwa. Afterwards, they called us to intervene. That was when FIR stepped in, supposedly in legitimate defense, to restore order. Tear gas and smoke were used. The place got dark. We took the ballot boxes in armored carriers and handed them over to SISE people to fill in the ballot papers for Frelimo, Frelimo… Meanwhile, at the school we carried on shooting. Afterwards, the cars would drive in the midst of the unrest area while others were filling in the ballot papers. OMM (Organization of Mozambican Women). Those are roguish ladies. They were at FIR’s barracks in Nampula filling in ballot papers for Frelimo, Frelimo… There were people who stood up and that was when the Commanding Officer ordered that four of them should be beaten up so that they could see we were serious.”
The full text of the interview can be accessed here: http://www.verdade.co.mz/tema-de-fundo/35/57164
Antonio A. S. Kawaria
To claim that the many irregularities detected did not affect the final result of the elections or the transparency of the process raises serious questions! Dr. Hanlon concedes that we had irregularities and fraud but still validates the result of fraudulent elections! Besides the ethic problem that a thief is a thief regardless of the amount that was stolen, there is no way to ascertain with certainty that the fraud was irrelevant to the final result! We are talking about stuffed boxes, violence, Police interference, no observers in many polling stations, no members of the Opposition to supervise and count in many polling stations, members of the Opposition arrested, threatened or bribed, electricity switched off during counting, , problems with the voting roll, voters prevented from voting, lack of voting material, polling stations opening late, intimidation, results fabricated, no edicts in many polling stations, etc.
The elections were fraudulent and validating the election is the main cause of the conflict that is costing many lives!
1. Did Dr. Hanlon take into account the deployment of military
personnel in known opposition strongholds and the use of such
personnel to chase voters away from polling stations on the grounds
that the scheduled voting period had expired, though the stations had
opened much later than what the electoral law requires?
2. The Constitutional Council’s ruling on the 2014 elections was not
unanimous. One of the Judge Counsellors objected to the fact the
polling stations’ return sheets were absent. Does Dr. Hanlon and his
team concur with the ruling party-appointed presiding judge of the CC,
himself a Frelimo member and protege that elections can be validated
without evidence in the form of such return sheets?
3. An LSE student caught cheating would still get his/her degree at
the end of the course?
The front pages of last week’s editions of SAVANA and @Verdade would have been a more befitting illustration to Joseph Hanlon’s piece – whichever of the two he picked, the message would have been the same and his readers would not have been misled by the text.
I comment as an opposition MP and an eyewitness of gross
irregularities which have marred our multiparty democracy. Rampant
fraud has been the hallmark of the ruling FRELIMO Party ever
since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1994. I am sure
situations as the ones experienced in Mozambique would have
effectively warranted the annulment of elections in democratic
countries in Europe, the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere, and the
culprits brought to justice.
The logic of Dr. Joseph Hanlon’s approach in that he wishes to justify
fraud and blame the victims for it escapes me. More than an affront, I
regard it as insulting to my country and my fellow countrymen who have
endured hardship to have a democracy in place in our fatherland.
Dr. Joseph Hanlon has rendered a disservice to the academia, to
history and to the world at large.
Francisco Campira Mboia
Member of Parliament