Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Friday passed the first reading of a bill on the procedures governing municipal elections.
This is the fifth and final part of a package of election laws drawn up by the Assembly’s Commission on Public Administration, which worked on the legislation for almost three years in a futile attempt to secure consensus,
There is no disagreement over most articles in the bills – but the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, still voted against them because it is demanding an opposition majority on the National Elections Commission, and that hard copies of the electoral register be given to all competing candidates.
In Friday’s brief debate, Renamo deputy Francisco Maingue claimed it was “fundamental” that the polling station monitors from all contesting parties and candidates should have their own paper copies of the voter roll. He alleged that this was a SADC (Southern African Development Community) recommendation, and common practice in other SADC member states.
He made veiled threats of violence, if Renamo’s demands are not accepted.
“Democracy still does not exist”, he claimed. “Perhaps a more muscular approach is needed to win real democracy”.
He warned that Renamo would take “severe measures” to ensure that the electoral legislation will not be implemented.
The chairperson of the Public Administration Commission, Alfredo Gamito of the ruling Frelimo Party, accused Maingue of lying about the SADC position.
Quoting from the SADC norms on elections, Gamito said the true recommendation was that the electoral register should be available to voters so that they can correct it, if it contains mistakes.
This was guaranteed by the bill on voter registration passed by the Assembly on Tuesday. This states that after the registration period, the registers are put on display for five days, at the registration posts, so that voters can consult them. If necessary, they can put on display again later, in provincial and district capitals or anywhere else approved by the CNE.
Two copies of the register will be available at the polling station – one for use by polling station staff, to tick off voters’ names as they cast their ballots, and one stuck on the wall for voters to consult.
During the negotiations over the legislation, Frelimo offered Renamo a digital version of the voter roll. Frelimo’s suggestion was that political parties could have the registers for all polling stations in electronic format, and they could print out whatever they wanted at their own expense.
Renamo rejected this suggestion and demanded paper copies, inserted in the kit of material for each polling station, which Gamito’s commission rejected largely on grounds of cost.
The bill passed its first reading by 174 votes, from Frelimo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), against 36 votes from Renamo.
Most of the bill repeats procedures already established for presidential and parliamentary elections. But unlike parliamentary elections, where only registered political parties can stand candidates, in the municipal elections independent groups of citizens may also stand. All candidates for mayor, whether proposed by parties or independent groups, must be nominated by at least one per cent of the registered electorate of the municipality.
One welcome change in the amended law is that candidates will no longer have to present a residence certificate proving that they live in the municipality. Opposition parties have long complained that municipal bureaucrats created obstacles to issuing what should be a simple certificate.
The bill now states that such a certificate is unnecessary for anyone whose identity card or voter card states that he or she lives in the municipality.
In principle, municipal elections should be held every five years, by the first fortnight of October, and the date must be announced 18 months in advance.
This is quite impossible for the next municipal elections which should be held in late 2013, and so a transitional clause in the law states that the 2013 elections can be held in November, and the date can be announced 180 days in advance.