Bad news for women: of the eight women running for mayor in Mozambique's municipal elections held on Nov. 19, only three won. Overall, 114 candidates ran for mayor in 43 municipalities.
The three winners - Rita Muianga, in Xai-Xai, Gaza province, Maria Helena Langa, in Mandlakazi, also in Gaza, and Marta Romeu, in Marrupa, Niassa province - belong to the ruling party Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo).
"It was a lovely campaign. We had loads of popular support," Muianga told IPS. She was re-elected as mayor of touristy Xai-Xai, renowned for its beaches, 220 kilometres north of Maputo.
The support for women in Xai-Xai goes beyond Muianga: she believes one-third of the municipal assembly will consist of women. At the time of writing, the official results for assemblies had not been released.
Maria Moreno, mayoral candidate in Cuamba, in Niassa province, for the opposition coalition Mozambican National Resistance Movement-Electoral Union (Renamo-UE, in Portuguese), got 2,040 votes against 9,714 for Frelimo's Armando Maloa.
"We worked hard but unfortunately there were irregularities along the process," said Moreno. "The Frelimo machinery is so powerful it can send party hacks to campaign in the districts."
Moreno alleges that some Renamo registered voters could not find their names on the lists and had to wait long hours: "Our poll monitors filed many complaints but only one was accepted."
Moreno will return to her parliamentary seat in Maputo, the capital.
"I feel sad," she told IPS. "I had three scenarios in my mind: to win, to win, and to lose. Sadly, I landed in the third."
Some 1.3 million - less than half of the 2.7 million registered municipal voters among the 20 million population - voted for local authorities in 43 municipalities in the country's third local polls after the first democratic elections in 1994. Low voter turnout is worrisome for Mozambique's experiment in decentralisation and devolution of power to the provinces.
The low number of women candidates in municipal elections perplexes Isabel Casimiro, a feminist historian at the Center for African Studies at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, the capital.
Casimiro and other gender activist groups organise nationwide campaigns on election years to get women to vote, to run for office, and to keep women's issues on the agenda if elected.
"In spite of the campaigns, we can't achieve the desired target," Casimiro told IPS. "I also doubt if gender is on the agenda of all women in office."
The polls marked a defeat for Renamo, which lost four of the five cities it controlled. It may yet lose the fifth, the Indian Ocean port of Nacala in Nampula province where an extremely tight race may need a re-run.
Frelimo candidate Chale Ossufo got 50.3 percent of the vote in Nampula, and five percent of votes were invalid. Electoral law mandates that a candidate must have over half of the votes or a re-run is needed, according to the bulletin of European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), which deployed poll monitors. The same could happen in Gurué, in Zambezia province.
Nevertheless, Frelimo's victory was resounding.
The surprise in these polls was the victory of an independent candidate in Beira, in the central province of Sofala.
Former mayor Daviz Simango was dropped as a candidate by Renamo and ran as independent. His performance in the run-down port city won him a second-term with 79,150 votes against 43,304 for his opponent, Frelimo's Lourenco Bulha.
Despite the dismal performance of women running for mayors, Mozambique is doing quite well in representation of women in government. Women hold 35 percent of Parliamentary seats, and 26 of ministerial post. Both Frelimo and Renamo reserve one-third of their lists for women.
Now, if only voters would do the same.