Mozambique opposition Renamo rejects election results

Maputo (AFP) - Mozambique's main opposition party Renamo on Thursday claimed victory in the country's election, rejecting official tallies that appeared to show the ruling Frelimo party on course for a landslide victory.

"We are not accepting the results of these elections," party spokesman Antonio Muchanga said -- a move that raises the spectre of post-election violence.

"We can categorically say Renamo won these elections," Muchanga told a news conference.

With nearly a quarter of the polling stations reporting on Wednesday's vote, Frelimo candidate Filipe Nyusi looked set to become the country's new president, having garnered 63 percent of the vote.

Initial tallies showed Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama struggling to win 30 percent of the vote.

But amid allegations of ballot tampering and election violence, Renamo -- which fought a long civil war against formerly Marxist Frelimo -- said the vote should be annulled.

"For Renamo, it is not a question of winning, it's a question of justice, transparency and the principles of real democracy," said Muchanga.

The former guerrillas have claimed that all past elections have been stolen by Frelimo, which has been in power since independence from Portugal in 1975.

Renamo, which waged a 16-year war until signing a peace deal in 1992, ended a recently renewed low-level insurgency in the centre of the country just weeks ahead of the election.

Part of the deal to end the latest conflict involved disarming Renamo fighters. But that process was due to kick off only after the elections, raising fears of fresh violence.

- Resources windfall -

That could be disastrous for a country looking forward to the benefits of a mineral resources windfall as gas deposits are exploited.

"Investors are watching Mozambique closely and want stability and predictability," said Chatham House researcher Alex Vines, describing the election as the "most important" since the first post-war vote in 1994.

The vote took place against a backdrop of rising discontent, with rapid economic growth in the southern African nation failing to benefit the bulk of a population that is among the world's poorest.

Paulo Cuinica, spokesman for the national Electoral Commission, said despite several incidents the polls had been "free and fair".

He confirmed unrest in several towns, including the opposition strongholds of Beira and Nampula where police fired teargas to disperse crowds.

"This was due to the desire by the people to watch the count but this is not allowed by the law. Police had to act," he told reporters.

He said six people were arrested in the coal-rich northwestern Tete province where "quite a number of polling stations were destroyed and material burnt".

The opposition complained that many of their monitors were barred from watching the voting because of accreditation problems. The electoral commission denied the claims.

"You cannot have free and transparent elections while party agents are not allowed to be there during the first hours of voting," said a senior official of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), Lutero Simango.

European Union observers told AFP that opposition monitors were absent at up to 34 percent of polling stations.

A projection of the results by a group of non-governmental organisations suggests Frelimo will win with more than 60 percent of the vote.

"Preliminary numbers and projections indicate the Frelimo will win a landslide victory," said a report by the Centre for Public Integrity and the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa.

The projections suggest a more balanced 250-seat parliament, with Frelimo's count reduced from 191 to 142, Renamo upping its presence from 51 seats to 75 and MDM from eight to 31 seats.

More than 10 million voters were registered for the presidential race, plus elections for national and provincial assemblies.

Incumbent President Armando Guebuza, from Frelimo, is prohibited by the constitution from running for a third term.