MAPUTO (Reuters) - Mozambique’s Renamo opposition leader said on Saturday he would opt for dialogue with the ruling Frelimo party and not resort to violence after early results showed him losing an election he dubbed a charade.
Afonso Dhlakama gave his pledge of negotiating differences with Frelimo at a news conference.
Partial provisional results from Wednesday’s vote indicate Frelimo and its presidential candidate Filipe Nyusi are headed for victory, ahead of Renamo’s Dhlakama and Daviz Simango of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). International observers called the vote generally free and peaceful.
Renamo’s party spokesman had already rejected the early results and demanded fresh elections, raising fears of possible political violence in the southern African nation, where from 1975 to 1992 Renamo rebels fought Frelimo in a civil war.
While making clear he would challenge the expected Frelimo win, former rebel leader Dhlakama told Reuters on Friday after a meeting with European Union ambassadors that there would be “no more war in Mozambique”.
In a news conference at a Maputo hotel on Saturday, Dhlakama repeated his pledge to shun violence. “There has to be a negotiation of a solution between Mozambicans,” he said.
Such assurances were likely to please foreign donors, diplomats and investors who have been hoping the elections can bury political enmities still lingering from the civil war.
A successful vote is crucial for Mozambique’s stability as it prepares to reap revenues from large offshore gas deposits in the north being developed by investors such as U.S. oil major Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Italy’s Eni.
Dhlakama said while he could not accept elections he called flawed by fraud and irregularities, he was ready to talk to Frelimo about introducing genuine democracy to Mozambique.
“I said there weren’t elections, there was a charade ... How could I accept something like that?” asked the white-haired opposition leader, who is 61 and has lost four previous general elections to Frelimo since a 1992 peace pact.
Listing alleged irregularities, he cited cases of ballot stuffing and said thousands of voters in central and northern provinces - where he enjoys support - had been turned away from polling stations because their names were not on the register.
“How many urns already appeared full of votes, already marked in favor of the Frelimo candidate?” Dhlakama asked, but did not offer details, saying his Renamo party was drawing up its own vote totals based on tally sheets from polling stations.
Frelimo has rejected the fraud charges.
Electoral authorities and international observers have all called on Renamo to provide evidence and direct its complaints through legal channels established for the electoral process.
Observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) have endorsed Wednesday’s elections as acceptable. European Union monitors criticized the election campaign as biased in Frelimo’s favor but said the actual voting itself was mostly peaceful and orderly.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also praised the “calm atmosphere” of the elections and noted they were considered by national and international observers to be generally peaceful and transparent “despite some localized incidents”, Ban’s spokseman said.
Dhlakama said his party would wait for full results to be announced before deciding whether to make any formal protest.
Third-placed candidate Simango, whose MDM is an emerging political force in the country, has also denounced what he said were numerous reports of irregularities and fraud.
In their election campaigns, Dhlakama and Simango attacked what they say is the stranglehold Frelimo has long maintained over political and economic power in Mozambique.
Over the last two years, Dhlakama’s armed partisans clashed sporadically with government troops and police. The Renamo leader emerged from a bush hideout last month to ratify a peace deal with outgoing Frelimo President Armando Guebuza. Guebuza is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term.
Dhlakama told journalists he saw himself as a fighter for democracy. “Africa still has a deficit in democracy,” he said.
Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Stephen Powell