Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Tuesday passed amended electoral legislation, and, contrary to the threats made last week by Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, the Renamo parliamentary group stayed in the chamber, and took part in the debates.
Interviewed last week by the independent daily “O Pais”, Dhlakama said that, if the majority Frelimo Party insisted on a vote on the electoral legislation, then he would recommend a Renamo walkout.
His recommendation was clearly rejected, although Renamo did make a few last minute attempts to postpone the vote. One of these delaying tactics was a demand by Renamo for urgent debates on matters that have nothing to do with elections.
Renamo wanted the Assembly to debate the theft two months ago of wages intended for teachers in the district of Machaze, in the central province of Manica. Urgent debates are supposed to be held only on matters of national importance, and the other two parties represented in the Assembly, the ruling Frelimo Party, and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), did not see how a theft in one district could be given such a status.
The head of the MDM group, Lutero Simango, thought that this was a case that the Manica Provincial Assembly, and not the national parliament, should discuss. “There needs to be reflection on the role of the provincial assemblies. What are they doing?”, he asked.
Renamo also wanted an urgent debate on wage disparities in the state apparatus. Renamo deputy Saimone Macuiana claimed that people with the same qualifications were being paid different wages in different ministries, and this matter too should be discussed in the Assembly.
But the Assembly’s governing board, its Standing Commission, recommended that these matters be discussed during the debate, scheduled for later this week, on the Economic and Social Plan and State Budget for 2013. When Renamo pushed this to a vote, it lost by 38 to 165, with the seven MDM deputies present abstaining.
Renamo then insisted on a vote as to whether or not to discuss the electoral legislation on Tuesday. It alleged it would be irregular to debate the amended laws without any calculation from the Finance Ministry as to the impact it would have on the state budget for next year, (In fact, there is no impact, since the 2013 municipal elections are already catered for in the draft 2013 budget).
This time both Frelimo and the MDM insisted there could be no further delay, and so the Renamo call for postponement went down to defeat by 172 votes to 38.
After the amended legislation was presented to the plenary by Alfredo Gamito, chairperson of the Assembly’s Commission on Public Administration, Renamo asked for a five minute interval for consultation. When the interval stretched to 15 minutes, there was some speculation that Renamo would not return, and would boycott the rest of the debate.
But in fact, all 35 Renamo deputies present returned to the chamber, spoke in the ensuing debates and took part in the votes.
The contrast with the Renamo behavior the last time the laws were amended, in December 2006, was striking. Then Renamo not only refused to vote but tried to howl down the Frelimo speakers, staging a mini-riot in the parliamentary chamber.
The Renamo deputies in 2006, chanted, sang, banged on the tables, and tried, unsuccessfully, to make it physically impossible to pass the laws.
There was no disruption this time round, and the laws were passed in a relatively normal parliamentary atmosphere.