22 February 2014

Mozambique: Renamo Holds Up Passage of Own Bill

Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
Election posters in the Sofala province town of Gorongosa.

Maputo — Parliamentary deputies of Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo on Saturday held up the second and final reading of their own amendments to the law establishing the National Elections Commission (CNE), despite winning almost everything they wanted.

The amendments were passed, in general, on a first reading on Friday. Because the bill was deemed highly urgent, the Assembly decided to deal with the second reading at an unprecedented session on Saturday. Since the Assembly's standing orders (which have the force of law) state that the Assembly only meets in ordinary session on weekdays, the chairperson, Veronica Macamo, had to resort to decreeing an extraordinary session to deal with the amendments on Saturday.

The session was supposed to begin at 09.00, but this was postponed to 10.00 and then midday. Macamo then told the Assembly that issues were still under discussion within the Assembly's Commission on Public Administration where the final version of the Renamo bill is being crafted. The session was therefore postponed to 16.00.

From members of the Public Administration Commission, AIM has learnt that just one issue is at stake - the composition of the provincial, district and city elections commissions.

Currently these bodies all have eleven members - six from political parties (three appointed by the ruling Frelimo Party, two by Renamo, and one by the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM), and five from civil society organizations. All their members were appointed last year, with the exception of the Renamo appointees since at the time Renamo was boycotting everything to do with elections.

Renamo wants to reduce all of these commissions to nine members by removing two of the civil society representatives.

Thus, although Frelimo reluctantly accepted Renamo demands to recruit over 2,300 political appointees to the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the body that actually runs the elections, that is not enough for Renamo. It now wants to knock out 40 per cent of the civil society representation on the election commissions.

In the Public Administration Commission, the Frelimo and MDM members wanted to keep the current 11 member composition, but Renamo insisted on reducing the number of seats for civil society representatives.

A vote was taken in the Commission - 13 commission members from Frelimo and the MDM voted for 11 members, and the sole Renamo member present voted for nine.

But Renamo has not accepted defeat, and so the issue remains under interminable discussion. Frelimo deputies say they pointed out that the provincial, district and city elections commissions were sworn into office in mid-2013, and are currently operational. So how did Renamo propose to remove two members from each of the 149 commissions? What criteria should be used to decide which of the civil society members would have to leave? Renamo was unable to answer these questions.

Frelimo deputies also suspect that Renamo is stalling, waiting for instructions from the party's leader, Afonso Dhlakama.

Although Dhlakama's exact whereabouts are not known, he is believed to be somewhere in the central province of Sofala, and is in phone contact with other Renamo figures.

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Election posters in the Sofala province town of Gorongosa.

The government has effected changes to the electoral legislation ahead of the October 15 general election. Read more »