The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 22 February passed amendments to the electoral legislation, creating much larger and deeply politicised electoral bodies. The amended bill had been presented by the country's main opposition party, Renamo.
The only stumbling block in the second reading was 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.
Renamo wanted to reduce all of these commissions to nine members by removing two civil society representatives. Frelimo and the MDM wanted to stick with eleven.
Matters seemed to be at an impasse inside the Assembly's Commission on Public Administration, which was drawing up the final version of the bill. But when the plenary Assembly session finally resumed, commission chairman Alfredo Gamito announced that consensus had been reached, not on reducing the size of the election commissions but on increasing it.
Each provincial, district and city elections commission will now have 15 members - three from Frelimo, two from Renamo, one from the MDM and nine from civil society.
This bill and a separate, less controversial Renamo bill on voter registration were passed unanimously and by acclamation. Deputies from all three parliamentary groups were on their feet and applauding, despite Frelimo's warnings on 21 February that the Renamo amendments are a serious setback to the attempts to create smaller, more professional and less politicised election bodies.