Maputo — The Mozambican government and the former rebel movement Renamo have reached agreement on total politicisation of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the civil service.
The existing law states that STAE consists of professional civil servants, recruited on merit through the normal civil service procedures. But the agreement reached at a session of the government-Renamo dialogue on Thursday seeks to place political appointees at all levels of STAE - central, provincial and district.
The government and Renamo delegations spent most of Thursday behind closed doors discussing appointments to STAE.
The final deal, according to the head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, is to put 18 political appointees into the top management of STAE, and six into each provincial and district STAE directorate.
These will be appointed by the three political parties represented in parliament, the ruling Frelimo Party, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). How many will be chosen by each party is not yet clear.
As for the National Elections Commission (CNE), the government-Renamo proposal is to expand it from the current 13 members to 17. The exact composition is also not yet clear - two different versions have been confidently stated in the media.
According to the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, the new CNE will have five members appointed by Frelimo, four by Renamo, one by the MDM, and seven from civil society. A second newsheet, “Canalmoz”, claim that the make-up will be seven from Frelimo, five from Renamo, two from the MDM and only three from civil society.
For comparison, the current make-up of the CNE is five appointees from Frelimo, two from Renamo, one from the MDM, three from civil society, a judge appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature, and an attorney appointed by the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office.
The government and Renamo have agreed that the two legal bodies will no longer be represented on the CNE, thus depriving the commission of valuable expertise.
As for the provincial and district elections commissions, these will have six political appointees. This is the current situation, with three representatives of Frelimo, two of Renamo, and one from the MDM on each of the commissions. But they also contain five civil society representatives - and it is not clear yet whether these will survive the Renamo rewriting of the law.
Renamo never took up its seats, either on the CNE, or on the provincial and district commissions. Its proposals were defeated in the Assembly in a vote of December 2012, and the current laws were passed by the votes of Frelimo and the MDM.
Defeated in normal democratic procedures, Renamo embarked on talks with the government designed to overturn the Assembly vote. As from June 2013, Renamo gunmen, never demobilised after the 1992 peace agreement, went into action, ambushing vehicles on the main north-south road, and attacking police stations, health units and other civilian and military targets in the central province of Sofala.
What Renamo could not win through parliamentary votes, it now seems to have achieved through the use of murder and mayhem.
The head of the government delegation to the Thursday meeting, Transport Minister Gabriel Muthisse, put a brave face on the concessions made to Renamo.
He said the government, in its commitment to holding orderly and fair elections, decided there was a need to form the electoral bodies in such a way that the various actors in elections would feel comfortable.
He claimed that the dialogue with Renamo “was an exercise in which the two sides showed their commitment to the democratic process and took positive steps so that this consensus might be achieved and closed”.
He stressed that STAE remains, in principle, part of the civil service, guided by civil service rules. But, during electoral periods, the possibility could be opened for political parties to participate in STAE.
“This does not invalidate the permanent staff of STAE”, Muthisse added, who would remain at their posts, and members of the permanent staff would go on being recruited through the normal procedures of the public administration.
“We hope that, in the coming days, Renamo will consolidate its commitment to democracy, and to peace, by depositing its proposals for amending the electoral legislation, and also be taking steps in all aspects, including the promotion of peace and stability, which will indicate that Renamo really is interested in democracy and in elections in 2014”, he said.
The delegations are due to meet again on Friday to agree the minutes of the Thursday talks. On the basis of those minutes, Renamo will then submit its amendments to the electoral legislation to the Assembly, the next sitting of which is due to begin on 19 February.
Last year the government repeatedly stated that its meetings with Renamo could not be expected to present the Assembly with a fait accompli - and on Thursday Mutisse did note that the Assembly remains free to agree or disagree with any proposal put to it. But he also thought that the parliamentary groups “have been attentive to the exercise we have been undertaking. So we think they can draw the due conclusions from this work”.
If the Assembly does accept these proposals, they will mark a massive retreat from the timid attempts undertaken so far to depoliticize election bodies.