Maputo — The European Union has praised the openness shown by Mozambique's electoral bodies during the November municipal elections, but has warned of “serious shortcomings”.
Diplomatic representatives from EU members, joined by diplomats from the non-EU countries of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, observed the elections. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the EU delegation in Maputo said that the electoral bodies responded well to the logistical challenge of organizing these elections.
But they were marred by the “arbitrary detentions” of political party polling station monitors. For some reason the EU fails to mention which party was involved - but in all the cases that have come to AIM's knowledge, the police only arrested monitors from the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
This was a flagrant violation of the electoral law which grants the monitors immunity from arrest unless they are caught in the act of committing a crime that carries a jail sentence of two years or longer. Since the MDM monitors were only held for a few hours or a couple of days, and none have been charged with serious offences, it is reasonable to assume that the motive for the detentions was to make it impossible for monitors to observe the count.
The EU also notes that many Mozambican election observers were not accredited in Beira.
This was a case where the Beira city elections commission flagrantly broke the law, and disregarded instructions given by the National Elections Commission (CNE) to issue paper credentials if, as the local commission had claimed, plastic was not available to produce the standard credential.
Other irregularities noted, said the EU statement, included the disappearance of results sheets in some municipalities, signs of people voting twice, ballot box stuffing, and the deliberate invalidation of votes.
The EU does not cite any particular municipality, but fraud by deliberately invalidating MDM votes was particularly evident in the town of Marromeu on the south bank of the Zambezi.
In the elections both for mayor and for members of the Marromeu municipal assembly a huge number of votes were classified as invalid at the polling stations. For the mayoral election, there were 1,119 invalid votes, and for the assembly election 1,285 invalid votes. This means that invalid votes accounted for 10.9 per cent of all votes cast for mayor, and 12.6 per cent in the assembly election.
Such extraordinarily high levels of invalid votes only occur when dishonest members of the polling station staff add an ink mark to the ballot paper to make it look as if the voter has tried to vote for more than one candidate.
This fraud is well known from previous Mozambican elections and was condemned in the 2009 general elections by the National Elections Commission (CNE) and by the Constitutional Council, but nobody was ever prosecuted.
In the previous municipal elections, in 2008, only 4.9 and 3.3 per cent of the votes in the Marromeu mayoral and assembly elections were classified as invalid at the polling stations. To argue that the November ballot was clean is to claim that the political literacy of Marromeu voters has sharply declined over the past five years, and that hundreds of people went to the polls with the sole intention of spoiling their ballot papers.
The EU statement waned that “effective mechanisms of appeal against irregularities and ascertaining who is responsible for them are important measures to ensure the credibility of elections”.
With general elections scheduled for 15 October, the EU calls for “supplementary efforts to guarantee transparency and credibility in the entire voting process”.
“All democratic political forces must recognise that political disagreements should be solved exclusively through dialogue and through the vote, in a peaceful environment, as well as in the framework of parliament”, concludes the statement.