Mozambique: Assembly Passes Final Versions of Election Bills

Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Monday, concluded the second and final reading of amended electoral legislation that paves the way for municipal elections in 2013, and general elections in 2014.

As with the first reading last week, the bills passed with the ruling Frelimo Party and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) voting in favour, and the former rebel movement Renamo voting against.

The bills dealt with on Monday were on voter registration, on the elections for provincial assemblies and on municipal elections. All passed by 188 votes to 31. (The second reading of the two other bills in the package, on the National Elections Commission [CNE] and on procedures for presidential and parliamentary elections, took place last Friday).

Renamo voted against the bill on voter registration, even though it had been entirely consensual in the Assembly’s Commission on Public Administration, which drew up the bills. Renamo agreed with all 61 articles in the bill, yet it still voted against, on the grounds that the composition of the CNE, and of its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), was critical to the entire package.

Renamo had failed in its bid to secure an opposition majority on the CNE and on STAE, and so it voted against the entire package.

Renamo deputy Felizarda Castro made the entirely untrue claim that “one party alone” is represented on the electoral bodies. In fact, the composition of the CNE, as approved last week, is that it consists of 13 members: eight appointed by the political parties in accordance with their strength in parliament (five from Frelimo, two from Renamo and one from the MDM), three appointed by civil society organisations, one judge and one attorney.

There is no political party representation at all on STAE, which is treated as the electoral branch of the civil service, with its officials recruited on merit, using normal civil service procedures.

Castro claimed that a CNE chosen in line with the amended law would “legitimize fraud in voter registration”.

Renamo has frequently claimed that “civil society does not exist”, and that the entire judiciary is partisan, and so it was no surprise when Castro added “the participation of civil society and of magistrates is intended to corrupt voter registration”.

Much more extreme was Armindo Milaco, who declared that the government “has transformed Mozambique into the throne of Satan”.

He also took a swipe at the MDM, describing it as “the creation of Frelimo to wipe out Renamo” (in reality the MDM arose from a serious split in Renamo caused by the expulsion of the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, from Renamo in 2008).

The spokesperson for the MDM parliamentary group, Jose Manuel de Sousa, told Milaco “I am not going to stoop to your level. We will always maintain a posture of state. And the MDM governs territories in this country” (a reference to the two cities with MDM mayors, Beira and Quelimane, and to the fact that in the 2008 local elections Renamo lost all the municipalities it had once held).

“We are against Machiavellian attempts to make elections impossible in our country”, he added. “And we are carrying out the decisions of the MDM Congress (held in early December) about our participation in the forthcoming elections”.

For Frelimo deputy Ricardina Sueia, the only explanation for Renamo’s behaviour was that “Renamo is afraid of elections”.

Giving a final Renamo declaration of vote, Milaco declared “we cannot legitimize communist guerrillas from Nachingwea” (a reference to the training camp in Tanzania used by Frelimo as its rear base in the war for Mozambican independence).

“We don’t recognise this war, and we will do everything we can to stop Mozambicans going to the polls”, he threatened.

Frelimo should be removed from power, he declared, “and the people will institute a transitional government”.

Now that the laws have been passed, the next stage is for President Armando Guebuza to promulgate them, and order their publication in the official gazette, the “Boletim da Republica”.

That can be done quickly – but the appointment of a new CNE depends on the next sitting of the Assembly, due to start in mid-February. The Assembly plenary will elect the eight political party representatives, and an ad-hoc commission that will supervise the election of the three civil society representatives.

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