28 November 2012

Mozambique: Assembly Moves Towards Vote On Electoral Laws

Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, moved closer to a vote on amended electoral legislation on Wednesday, when it approved a report from the Assembly’s Commission on Public Administration, which admitted that no progress had been made towards reaching consensus on the composition of the new National Elections Commission (CNE).

With time running out, if municipal elections are to be held on schedule, in October 2013, the Wednesday resolution passed by the Assembly instructed the Public Administration to deposit the draft laws by Friday. This will give the deputies time to read them before a vote is taken some time in mid-December.

In all, the Commission has been working for more than two years on amending five laws – one on voter registration (which is uncontroversial), one on the CNE and its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), and three on electoral procedures (for general, municipal and provincial elections). The five laws contain around 740 articles.

The main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, is still stalling for time. Renamo deputies called for yet another attempt by the leaderships of the three parliamentary groups (from Renamo, the ruling Frelimo Party and the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM) to achieve the elusive consensus.

“We think that the outstanding questions can still be solved”, said Renamo deputy Anselmo Vitor, while his colleague Luis Gouveia urged “we should obtain consensus before any vote or debate”.

But since there is no sign of Renamo backing down on its key demand for an opposition majority on the CNE, there is no realistic possibility of consensus. Accepting the Renamo call for more negotiations would make it almost impossible to pass the amended laws in this parliamentary sitting, which must close on 23 December. Without the amended laws, there can be no new CNE, and without a CNE there can be no elections in 2013.

Frelimo and the MDM insisted that 30 November must be a real deadline for depositing the draft laws, so that copies can be made for all 250 deputies.

When the resolution was put to a vote, it passed with 179 Frelimo and MDM deputies voting for it, while the 37 Renamo deputies present voted against.

Giving the Renamo “declaration of vote”, Gouveia protested “our adversaries in Frelimo don’t want consensus. We want space for reaching consensus around the differences that still exist. We have the political will to continue negotiating for consensus”.

He attacked the Frelimo/MDM proposal to put a judge and an attorney on the CNE, claiming that the Mozambican legal system “holds political trials”.

For good measure, he claimed that “51 per cent of the Frelimo deputies are the result, not of votes, but of fraud”. He did not reveal how Renamo had reached a conclusion that none of the observers during the 2009 general elections had reached.

The Frelimo declaration of vote dismissed the Renamo position as “an exercise in diversion and bad faith”, and pointed out that there was nothing polemical about approving the Commission’s report (which had been signed by the Renamo members of the Commission), and depositing the five laws.

Ever since the Commission on Public Administration was given the task of amending the laws, Renamo has insisted on a heavily politicised CNE, and one on which opposition parties will enjoy a substantial majority.

Its current position is that the CNE should consist of 14 members – four appointed by Frelimo, four by Renamo, four by the MDM, and two by the extra-parliamentary parties. Renamo calls this parity – but in fact it is device to give the opposition the majority on the CNE that they have never been able to win in elections.

Frelimo had twice this year (in March and in early October) called for a completely independent CNE, with no political party appointees. This received no support from either Renamo or the MDM, so Frelimo too retreated to a position where political parties dominate the CNE.

The current Frelimo/MDM proposal is for a 13 member CNE, eight chosen by the parliamentary parties (five by Frelimo, two by Renamo and one by the MDM), three from civil society organisations, a judge and an attorney.

As for STAE, Frelimo and the MDM hold that STAE officials should be recruited on merit, chosen by normal civil service assessment procedures, while Renamo wants STAE politicised from top to bottom.

In Renamo’s proposal, not only would there be deputy directors from the political parties looking over the shoulder of the STAE general director – but at every level (central, provincial, city and district) political nominees would dominate. Thus in each district STAE would have three officers appointed by Frelimo, three by Renamo and three by the MDM.

The last time the Assembly amended the electoral legislation was in December 2006 – and when Renamo did not like the outcome is staged a riot in the parliamentary chamber. Then the laws were passed against a deafening background of Renamo yells, chants and banging on the table. Renamo now has many fewer deputies than it did in 2006, and may not be able to use the same tactics.

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