Maputo — During the debate on amended electoral legislation, Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, “gave us demonstrations of its arrogant and anti-democratic nature, trying to impose at all costs its ideas and pretensions”, accused Margarida Talapa, head of the parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party on Friday.
Speaking at the close of a sitting of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Talapa said that Frelimo had accepted the recommendations of the Constitutional Council (the highest Mozambican body in matters of constitutional and electoral law), and of domestic and foreign observer missions, that the electoral administration bodies should be more professional and less politicised.
But Renamo had gone in the opposite direction – it has demanded electoral bodies that were larger and completely packed with political appointees.
The electoral legislation had been discussed, first in the Assembly’s Commission on Public Administration, and then by the parliamentary leaderships of Frelimo, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), but Renamo never shifted from its demand for what it called “parity” in the composition of the National Elections Commission (CNE).
Renamo wanted a 14 member CNE – with four members appointed by Frelimo, four by Renamo, four by the MDM and two by extra-parliamentary opposition parties. Although Renamo said this would be “parity, in fact it would set up a body with a built-in opposition majority of ten to four.
“In the discussions on the electoral laws, we in Frelimo were very tolerant”, said Talapa. “We took part in several meetings of the leaders of the three parliamentary groups to try and overcome the divergences that Renamo was inventing. But we soon understood that the successive delays, at Renamo’s request, were intended to drag the material beyond the legally established deadlines”.
Renamo wanted to continue discussing the laws in order to force a postponement of the 2013 municipal and 2014 general elections, she suggested.
“Renamo did everything to delay approval of the electoral laws”, she accused, “so that there would be no time to begin the procedures for setting up the new CNE. With these manoeuvres, they thought they could delay the 2013 and 2014 elections, because they are not prepared. They are disorganized and have no leadership. They are like a boat drifting towards the abyss”.
Renamo, she continued, knew that, if the elections were held on schedule, they would lose heavily, since “instead of organizing themselves and preparing their electoral strategies, they spend their time handling their own contradictions, with a nomadic leader of no fixed abode”. (A reference to the decision by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama to abandon his house in the northern city of Nampula and to live, with several hundred demobilised Renamo fighters, in a bush camp in the central district of Gorongosa).
So eventually Frelimo and the MDM had passed all five electoral laws, with Renamo voting against. The Mozambican people, said Talapa, “do not want to see the elections postponed or democracy held hostage to the whims of a despot and his subjects”.
Renamo has now threatened not only to boycott the elections but to refuse to allow other Mozambicans to cast their ballots. “In fact, what they are telling Mozambicans and the world is that they miss the war, they miss terrorizing our people, and they want to use force to impose their ideas”, declared Talapa.
But she was sure Renamo would be unable to carry though its threats. “The Mozambican democratic process is irreversible”, she insisted. “It is not by voting against the laws in parliament that you can halt its advance. Those who continue to resist will be left behind, and it will be their own fault.
And don’t say we didn’t warn you!”
The head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Angelina Enoque, called for the depoliticisation of the Mozambican state apparatus and legal system, but for the total politicisation of the electoral bodies. She insisted on the Renamo concept of “parity” in the formation of the CNE, and claimed that victory in Mozambican elections is determined, not by the voters, but “by the electoral bodies, with the aid of the police”.
She claimed, without the slightest shred of evidence, that fraud “begins with the voter registration”, and dismissed all previous Mozambican elections as “a farce”, and “a dirty game, where results are shamelessly manipulated by the (Frelimo) Central Committee, with the support of the defence forces”.
But, unlike Renamo officials outside parliament, Enoque did not specifically call for disruption of the 2013 and 2014 elections.
The MDM sharply differentiated its position from that of Renamo. Its parliamentary leader, Lutero Simango, said the revised laws created more detailed legislation “with norms and procedures leading to more transparency, impartiality and participation”.
He was sure that the amended legislation would “help guarantee voting in an environment free of intimidation and manipulation”. The votes would be counted at the polling stations “on the basis of procedures that are impermeable to adulteration of the results”.
One innovation is that the competing parties and candidates can appoint election agents not only centrally, but also at local level, who will follow the tabulation of results in the districts and provinces, “with the freedom to present complaints, protests and counter-protests”. Simango regarded this as very healthy, and as a mechanism that will allow the competing forces to inspect all the acts of the electoral administration.
Simango urged the police “not to interfere in the vote and the count, much less display its military might on polling day. Its presence should not intimidate, and the police should not receive orders from political actors”.
Unlike Renamo, which has called for the dissolution of the government and of the Assembly, Simango said the MDM wants to see the bodies elected in 2009 complete their terms of office, and for the coming elections to be held on time.
He urged the large number of Mozambicans who abstained in recent elections “to reconsider and to exercise their democratic right. In each election, we are deciding the direction of the country, and each one of us has the co-responsibility to decide the future of Mozambique”.