Maputo — Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has once again threatened to boycott future elections if the electoral legislation is not to its liking.
Cited in Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the spokesperson for the Renamo parliamentary group, Arnaldo Chalaua, said that his party could not see itself participating in elections unless the legislation was “consensual”.
“We cannot take part in a process where the winners and losers are announced before the elections begin”, he said. Neither Frelimo nor the second parliamentary opposition Party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) accept that the draft legislation can be characterized in this manner.
Chalaua added that Renamo is prepared to discuss further with Frelimo to reach “consensus”, and warned that Frelimo and the MDM should “reflect better so as to understand that the elections should be held on a basis of equal opportunities”.
For Renamo this means complete politicisation of the electoral bodies, with the opposition parties in a majority, and Renamo exercising an effective power of veto.
Over the past two years exhaustive attempts have been made to reach consensus, first within the Parliamentary Commission on Public Administration, then in repeated negotiations between the leaderships of the Frelimo, Renamo and MDM parliamentary groups.
Time has now run out. Last week, the plenary of the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, ordered the Commission on Public Administration to deposit the draft legislation by Friday, so that copies can be circulated to all deputies. That has been done, and all that remains is to fix a date for the debate in plenary, during which Renamo can, if it so wishes, submit its proposals as amendments.
The current sitting of the Assembly must end by 23 December. If the electoral laws have not been passed by then, it will be impossible to appoint a new National Elections Commission (CNE) in time to hold municipal elections on schedule, in late 2013.
The key disagreement with Renamo is on the composition of the CNE and of its executive body, STAE. The proposal from Frelimo and the MDM is for a CNE that consists of eight people appointed by the political parties in proportion to the number of seats they hold in the Assembly (five from Frelimo, two from Renamo and one from the MDM), three members chosen by civil society organisations, a judge and an attorney.
Renamo wants a CNE which consists entirely of party appointees. Its latest proposal is for a CNE of 14 members – four from Frelimo, four from Renamo, four from the MDM and two from extra-parliamentary parties. Renamo calls this “parity” – in fact it would give the opposition a built-in majority, with ten members of opposition parties to four from Frelimo.
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 at central level there would be five appointees from each of the parliamentary parties, at provincial level four, and at district and city level three. The danger of this format is not simply that Frelimo would be outnumbered at each level, but that such a cumbersome and politicised body would be unable to organise elections properly. It would also stuff STAE full of literally thousands of political appointees, all of whom would demand payment.
MDM spokesman Jose Manuel de Sousa told “Noticias” that Renamo should take heed of the calls from national and international election observer missions, and from the Constitutional Council, Mozambique’s highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, to move towards less politicised electoral bodies.
“We remain open to dialogue, and we hope that Renamo reviews its position and becomes more rational”, sad Sousa.
There would be nothing new about Renamo boycotting elections. It boycotted the first municipal elections in 1998, when it had a good opportunity to win control of several cities in towns in central and northern Mozambique.
The result of the Renamo boycott was that Frelimo won in all the 33 municipalities that existed then.
Renamo also boycotted the four mayoral by-elections held in December 2011 and April this year. This boycott turned those elections into a battle between Frelimo and the MDM, with the MDM winning in the largest municipality at stake, Quelimane, and Frelimo winning in Pemba, Cuamba and Inhambane.
The major beneficiary from a Renamo boycott of the 2013 municipal elections would certainly be the MDM, which has a realistic chance of displacing Renamo and becoming the country’s main opposition force.