Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Friday unanimously passed amendments proposed by the former rebel movement Renamo which will politicise the electoral bodies from top to bottom.
The amendments derive from the dialogue held between Renamo and the Mozambican government, but deputies from the ruling Frelimo Party warned that not everything in the bills proposed by Renamo can be found in the consensus achieved in the dialogue meetings.
Alfredo Gamito, chairperson of the Assembly's Commission on Public Administration, pointed out that the Renamo-government meetings “culminated with agreements on principles, but there was no specification of articles and details of procedures that should figure in the revision of the electoral legislation. To some extent, this question allowed Renamo to present its bills with some matters going beyond the consensus reached in the dialogue”.
Gamito added that his Commission regards the Renamo bill on the National Elections Commission (CNE) and its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), “as a significant retreat on the efforts that have been made to professionalise the electoral bodies, reduce their size and separate them from political parties”.
Nonetheless, the written opinion from the Commission left intact most of the Renamo amendments.
The current CNE was established under a law passed in December 2012, and was already a retreat from a proposal made by Frelimo in March of that year for a CNE of just seven members, all of them from civil society bodies.
Today's CNE consists of eight political party representatives - five appointed by the ruling Frelimo Party, two by Renamo and one by the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). In addition there are three members 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 Renamo bill expands the CNE to 17 members. There will still be five Frelimo nominees, and one from the MDM, but Renamo will now appoint four members. The other seven will come from civil society.
The process for appointing the civil society members is exactly the same as last year. Legally recognised civil society organisations submit names to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, within 30 days of an announcement published by the Assembly, a short list is drawn up and the Assembly selects the CNE members from that list.
In amending Renamo's amendments, Gamito's commission made clear that the existing civil society representatives will stay on the CNE.
Four new members must be recruited, and when then take office, the judge and attorney will leave the CNE.
Quite new is the creation of two deputy CNE chairpersons, one from Frelimo and one from Renamo. The chairperson (moslem cleric Sheik Abdul Carimo) and his two deputies will form a CNE Board, which will draw up the agenda for CNE meetings.
Renamo wanted to shrink the size of the provincial and district elections commissions from 11 to nine. Under the existing law each of these commissions consists of three representatives of Frelimo, two of Renamo, one from the MDM and five civil society appointees.
Renamo proposed leaving the political party representation untouched, but reducing the civil society members from five to three.
The counter-proposal from the Commission is to leave these commissions exactly as they are. They were appointed last year, and are already operational.
As for STAE, although it remains in theory the electoral branch of the civil service, during election periods its staff will increase dramatically, with the insertion of political party appointees at all levels.
AT STAE headquarters, the general director, currently professional civil servant Felisberto Naife, will have two deputies, one from Frelimo and one from Renamo. The Renamo proposals would have made it obligatory for Naife to consult with his deputies before reporting to the CNE, but the Commission wants to remove this demand.
Under the STAE general director are the directorates of organisation, training, and administration and finance. These will, in the Renamo schema, have six deputy directors, three from Frelimo, two from Renamo and one from the MDM.
There will be a further 18 political staff at STAE headquarters - nine from Frelimo, eight from Renamo and one from the MDM.
There is a similar structure in the provincial, district and city branches of STAE. There will be a STAE director, two deputy directors (one appointed by Frelimo and one by Renamo), heads of department and six deputy heads of department in each province, each district and each city. Three of the deputy heads of department will come from Frelimo, two from Renamo and one from the MDM. On top of that there will be another six political staff in each provincial, district and city STAE - again three from Frelimo, two from Renamo and one from the MDM.
Gamito insisted that the political parties cannot put anybody they choose into STAE - instead his commission inserted the safeguard that these appointees must have the requisite “technical qualifications” for managing elections
One Frelimo deputy, Nyeleti Mondlane, protested that the Renamo proposal means there will be around 1,200 political appointees in STAE. That figure is a serious underestimate. Since there are 14 political appointees per district, there will be 1,792 of them in the 128 existing districts. In the 11 provinces, including Maputo City, there will be a further 154, in the ten provincial capitals 140, and at STAE headquarters 26. That is a grand total of 2,312.
Renamo has not put a figure on the additional wages bill this will imply for STAE. All laws and amendments that come before the Assembly must include a statement on their budgetary implications. When he formally moved the bills, Renamo deputy Jose Manteigas said that the Finance Ministry has promised to provide a figure for the budgetary impact.
The Frelimo deputies who spoke in the brief debate all agreed with Gamito that the Renamo proposals were a step away from the smaller, more professional and less politicised electoral bodies that would be desirable - but they were making these concessions to Renamo “for the sake of peace”.
Helder Injonjo noted that setting up larger and thoroughly politicised electoral bodies flew in the face of the suggestions made by domestic and international election observation missions and by the Constitutional Council (Mozambique's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law).
Frelimo was accepting the amendments, he said, “because we are committed to the peace and well-bring of the Mozambican people”. It had agreed to discuss the electoral legislation in order “to end the terror, mourning and sorrow in Mozambican families”.
Beatriz Ajuda noted that Frelimo and Renamo had completely different concepts of the electoral bodies. Frelimo had wanted bodies that are “small, professional and not politicised, while Renamo wants the political parties to be referees as well as players. This is the cause of the disagreement”.
Nonetheless, she too, in the name of peace, was prepared to pass the Renamo bills.
For Frelimo, there was an implicit quid pro quo - the electoral bills would be passed and then Renamo would end its current military campaign, centred mainly on Sofala province.
The MDM shared this hope. MDM deputy Jose Manuel de Sousa noted that “military tension has destroyed families, killed innocent people, prevented children from going to school and held back investors. The reason invoked for this is the electoral legislation”.
So although the MDM had not been included in Renamo's discussions with the government, it was prepared to consent to the Renamo proposals in order for peace to return to the country.
The Renamo deputies who spoke did not mention the Renamo military operations and did not promise that the Renamo militia would be disarmed. Instead, Renamo deputy Viana Magalhaes claimed that all previous elections had been fraudulent, and Jose Manteigas declared that the existing electoral bodies are, in reality, dominated by Frelimo.
The bill on the CNE passed its first reading unanimously. It is now being redrafted by the Commission on Public Administration, and will go its second and final reading on Saturday.