Maputo — Yet another round of dialogue between delegations of the Mozambican government and of the main opposition party, Renamo, on Thursday failed to reach any consensus on the country's electoral legislagtion.
This was described as the 'fourth extraordinary session' of the dialogue. But, ordinary or extraordinary, the sessions always end the same way - with no agreement.
This time, according to a report in the independent newsheet 'Mediafax', Renamo has finally abandoned its demand for parity between itself and the ruling Frelimo Party on the National Elections Commission (CNE). The new Renamo formula is that Frelimo can appoint 50 per cent of the CNE, with the other 50 per cent shared between Renamo, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) and civil society.
This entirely misses the main point made insistently by the government - which is that only the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, can change the electoral legislation, and the government, under the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution, has no power to dictate to the Assembly.
At the press conference after the meeting, the head of the Renamo delegation, parlimentarian Saimone Macuiana, declared 'We presented the government with the new proposal for the composition of the electoral bodies. The government asked us to put this into writing so that they could examine it with precision. tomorrow we shall formalise this proposal so that the government can give us its position at the session next Monday',
That is certainly not how the government saw the Thursday session. The head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco said that Renamo is not empowered to represent other organisations. In other words, Renamo proposals could only bind Renamo and not other parties such as the MDM.
Other parties are just as sovereign as Renamo is, he said, and if they want to bring proposals forward, they have to do it themselves.
'Renamo has no mandate to speak for the opposion as a bloc', said Pacheco. 'The parties are sovereign and each of them can defend itself'.
Furthermore, Renamo was still trying to turn the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service, into a body dominated by political parties.
Pacheco said it would be 'out of the question' to deal with electoral matters in the way proposed by Renamo, since it would involve violating the country's constitution and laws.
He said that Renamo had brought a lengthy document to the meeting, dealing with a range of questions. The government asked for a copy, but Renamo refused on the grounds that the document is still a draft and that improvements are being made to it.
Renamo still insists on a 'political agreement' with the goverment on the electoral legislation, in the belief that this would force the Assembly to change its decision of last December. Then the votes of Frelimo and the MDM defeated those of the Renamo parliamentary group, and passed the current version of the laws, including the current composition of the CNE.
The CNE consists of 13 members, eight of whom are chosen by the parliamentary political parties (five by Frelimo, two by Renamo and one by the MDM), and three by civil society organisations. The final two members are a judge appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy and an attorney apointed by the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office.
Pacheco said that the defence and security commission set up by the government last week is willing to meet with its Renamo counterpart to discuss the disarmamnt of the former rebel movement and preparations for a possible meeting between President Armando Guebuza and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
But once again, as at the Monday session of the dialogue, the Renamo military delegation did not show up. It is likely that the delegation is still at Dhlakama's base at Satunjira, in the centrel district of Gorongosa.
Furthermore Renamo is adamantly refusing to discuss defence and security issues until the discussion on the electoral legislation is terminated in its favour.
Renammo also wants the government to remove the soldiers and troops which, it claims, are encircling the Satunjira base. Indeed, Dhlakama has publicly threatened that he will not leave Satunjira to meet with Guebuza unless the police and military units are removed.
Pacheco made it quite clear that the government will not accept instructions from Renamo about where to station the police. As for the suggestion that Guebuza culd meet Dhlakama in Gorongosa, Pacheco said that, because of the Head of State's crowded agenda, the meeting should be held in Maputo.
Macuiana said that dialogue remains deadlocked because the government 'is not interested in solving the question of the electoral legislation'.
But that question was solved in December, when parliament voted definitively on the new laws. The parliamentary vote followed almost two years of discussion on the electoral in a parliamentary commission, and various face-to-face meetings between the leaderships of the Frelimo, Renamo and MDM parliamentary groups.
Renamo's boycott of the elections means that every Renamo member currently sitting in a Municipal Assembly will lose his or her seat, and the MDM will be the main force opposing Renamo in the local elections.