Maputo — The Mozambican government and the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, on Saturday resumed discussion of the country's electoral legislation.
The dialogue between the government and Renamo, after a Renamo boycott lasting more than three months, resumed on 27 January and continued on Saturday.
Last year, the dialogue had stalled because Renamo demanded parity with the ruling Frelimo Party on the National Elections Commission (CNE), and was trying to use the dialogue as a back door to overturning the election laws passed by the country's parliament in December 2012. The legislation passed with the votes of Frelimo and of the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), while Renamo voted against.
Recently Renamo has hinted that it may be prepared to drop its demand for parity on the CNE. Interviewed by the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, the Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, said the solution “does not necessarily involve parity”, he said. “We must understand that in negotiations, one doesn't win everything, but also one doesn't lose everything”.
“We are willing to make some concessions”, Mazanga added, “concessions in order to ensure that Mozambicans have free and fair elections, and above all that Mozambicans live in peace”.
It is clear that it would be quite impossible to appoint a new CNE, plus new provincial, district and city elections commissions, and still hold this year's presidential and parliamentary elections on 15 October.
But Renamo's electoral proposals of last year also had several points that the government delegation accepted. These included provisions for recounts, electoral courts, full immunity for polling station monitors, places for political party observers at CNE meetings, and permanent party observers at the CNE's executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).
Had Renamo presented these as amendments to the electoral law at the extraordinary parliamentary sitting of August last year, they would have been accepted, and could have made a material difference to the conduct of the November municipal elections.
But, without an agreement on parity on the CNE, Renamo refused to propose any amendments at all. If Renamo has now dropped the demand for parity, it may be possible to rescue its other proposals.
But time is pressing. The next parliamentary session begins on 19 February.
Renamo amendments to the electoral laws need to be submitted very soon if they are to be included on the parliamentary agenda.
Speaking to reporters after the Saturday meeting, the head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, said Renamo is concerned at how little time remains to conclude the question of the electoral legislation.
“So we began re-examining the electoral laws today”, he said. “We hope that a result can soon be produced that will satisfy not only Renamo, and not only the government, but also the Mozambican people
He implied that Renamo's participation in the October elections was by no means a foregone conclusion. He said Renamo was still looking at aspects of the laws which it considers relevant for allowing it to participate. He said Renamo had brought new proposals for the government to reflect on.
The head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, said the debate on the electoral legislation should continue in order to understand better anything new that Renamo was bringing to the table.
“We will use all the steps that the law allows so that these questions can be dealt with in good time during these 15 days”, he said. The mention of 15 days refers to the period before the start of voter registration on 15 February.
The voter registration was to have begun on 30 January, but was postponed by a fortnight at Renamo's request. It will end on 29 April.