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Despite Boycott Order, 50% Turn Out on 1st Day of Mozambique Elections

October 28, 1994|From Reuters

MAPUTO, Mozambique — About half of Mozambique's 6.4-million electorate voted in the country's first free ballot Thursday, despite confusion from a last-minute boycott order by the main, ex-rebel opposition, electoral officials said.

Many voters had either not heard of the boycott decreed by Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) leader Afonso Dhlakama or went ahead and voted as a form of insurance in case the former rebel chief changed his mind.

Dhlakama was under intense pressure to do so, despite his claim that the result from the ballot box would be fraudulent.

The United States, the European Union and neighboring countries including South Africa urged him to take part in Mozambique's first democratic elections, which are for Parliament and the presidency.

Manuel Frank, a spokesman for the independent National Electoral Commission, told a news conference that there were no reports of intimidation despite the boycott call.

"We do not have exact statistics at this point. But our observation was that at least 50% of the electorate voted, which is a sign that voting is going normally," he said.

About 6,000 monitors observed the voting, which is due to continue today. Frank said it did not appear necessary to extend balloting for an optional third day.

Some diplomats said Dhlakama may have called the boycott in a bid to strengthen his bargaining position with the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) and its leader, President Joaquim Chissano, expected to win the parliamentary and presidential polls.

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