Maputo — As expected, the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Wednesday postponed any decision on amendments to the country’s electoral legislation until next week.
Back in 2010, the Assembly’s Commission on Public Administration was given the task of amending the electoral laws. Two and a half years later, the commission is still no nearer achieving any consensus on the composition of the National Elections Commission (CNE) and of its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).
The ball was thrown into the hands of the leaderships of the three parliamentary groups (from the ruling Frelimo Party, and the two opposition forces, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM) with equal lack of success.
The leaderships met in December 2011, and January and April this year. Although some other issues were ironed out, the gulf between Frelimo and Renamo on the composition of the electoral bodies remained unbridgeable.
On 31 October, the chairperson of the Commission on Public Administration, Alfredo Gamito, reported this fact back to the plenary. Despite the lack of progress, deputies from both Renamo and Frelimo Party suggested that the leaderships of the parliamentary groups should try yet again to reach consensus.
Gamito suggested that the leaderships be given seven days to make a last effort to solve their differences. Renamo insisted on shifting the deadline from 7 to 14 November, which the plenary accepted,
But on Wednesday, Gamito reported that Renamo wanted yet more time. He said that the leaderships of the three parliamentary groups had met on 7, 8 and 12 November, “but there was no significant advance”.
On Monday, Renamo submitted a written request for the deadline to be shifted to 21 November “in order for us to reflect in order that we may better decide”.
Frelimo and the MDM accepted the request, but not without misgivings. During the debate one Frelimo deputy, Almeida Humbe found it surprising that, after so many months of discussions, Renamo still wanted more time.
“What do they want to reflect on?”, he asked. “What were they doing all this time?”
Time is now running out. The next municipal elections are due in October 2013, and the new CNE is still not in place.
The last time the election laws were amended was in December 2006, almost two years before the 2008 local elections. This time there will be less than a year between the passage of the amended laws through the Assembly and the elections.
Gamito insisted that 21 November must be treated as a real deadline. For, whatever the decision of the parliamentary leaderships, after 21 November the definitive versions of the electoral laws must be drawn up, and distributed to all deputies at least a week before they are debated in the Assembly plenary. The final vote on the laws should be held no later than 15 December.
The key dispute between Frelimo and Renamo concerns the role of political parties in the CNE and STAE.
Frelimo and the MDM agreed on a formula that will give the political parties eight seats on the CNE and civil society organisations only five (in contrast to the current law, under which civil society organisations appoint eight CNE members, and the political parties five). AIM calculates that of the eight party seats in this model of the CNE, Frelimo will appoint five, Renamo two and the MDM one.
Renamo’s proposal, however, is for a larger and much more politicised CNE, in which the opposition parties will have a majority. The Renamo proposal is for a 17 member Commission – Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM would each appoint four members, two members would be appointed by extra-parliamentary opposition parties, and only three members would come from civil society.
Renamo describes this as “parity” – but in reality it is a formula designed to give the opposition a majority, and hence a veto.
There is even sharper disagreement over the composition of the CNE’s executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE). As far as Frelimo is concerned, STAE is the electoral branch of the civil service, whose officials are recruited on a basis of merit through normal civil service procedures.
Renamo wants to completely politicise STAE, with staff appointed by Frelimo, Renamo, the MDM and the extra-parliamentary parties at all levels.
These disagreements are unlikely to be solved within the next week. Indeed, in the Wednesday debate Renamo deputy Jose Palaco continued to demand “parity” on the CNE, fully aware that this is quite unacceptable to Frelimo.