Maputo — Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo has formally requested an extension to the current voter registration period.
Registration began on 15 February and is due to end on 29 April. Renamo claims that large numbers of potential voters, particularly in the most populous provinces of Nampula and Zambezia, will not be able to register by then.
Antonio Muchanga, spokesperson for Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, announced on the independent television channel TIM on Tuesday, that Renamo had submitted a request for an extension to the National Elections Commission (CNE).
CNE spokesperson Paulo Cuinica confirmed to AIM on Wednesday that the request has indeed been received and will now be considered at a plenary meeting of the CNE. He believed this meeting would be scheduled for Thursday.
Muchanga stressed that Renamo was motivated, not by the fact that Dhlakama himself has not yet registered as a voter, but because registration rates are still too low in several key provinces, notably Nampula and Zambezia, but also the northernmost province of Niassa.
He claimed that there are too few registration brigades in these provinces, and too many in the southern provinces of Gaza, Maputo and Maputo City. He suggested this was a deliberate attempt to prejudice voters in areas believed to be under opposition influence.
When AIM asked Felisberto Naife, the general director of the CNE's executive arm, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), to comment on this claim, he dismissed it, pointing out that the siting of voter registration posts was not arbitrary, but had been decided in discussions at district level upwards.
The initial proposals for registration posts was made by district branches of STAE, and then approved by the District Elections Commission. The proposal then went upwards for analysis and approval by the Provincial Elections Commission, and finally by the CNE itself. The list of registration posts was then published in the main daily paper “Noticias”.
Naife thought it absurd that only now, a week from the end of the voter registration period, someone was claiming there are too few registration posts in some provinces and too many in others.
The total number of registration brigades has increased by 26 per cent since the last general elections in 2009. Then STAE operated 3,242 brigades. This year the number has risen to 4,078 brigades.
Muchanga claimed that the brigades cannot operate on rainy days because the solar panels producing their electricity will only work when the sun is shining. Naife laughed at Muchanga's scientific ignorance - for in reality, solar panels continue to work when the sky is overcast. They depend on natural light, which continues to reach the surface of the planet even through clouds. In any case, Naife added, most of the registration posts depend, not on solar panels, but on generators.
Muchanga alleged that all the brigades in the rural parts of Palma district in the northern province of Cabo Delgado had to stop work and take their equipment to Palma town to be recharged. But the STAE Cabo Delgado provincial director, Cassamo Camal, told AIM that all is normal in Palma. He said registration in the district is going well, with 80 per cent of the Palma potential electorate issued with their voter cards.
Like the other four districts in the north of Cabo Delgado (Mueda, Muidumbe, Nangade and Mocimboa da Praia), Palma was cut off from the rest of the country when a bridge over the Messalo river was swept away by flooding in March. But Camal said STAE has subsequently been able to take fuel by sea for the generators and vehicles of all the registration brigades in Palma and the other affected districts.
The latest STAE figures on registration show that so far 9,336,039 voters have been registered - which is 76.5 per cent of the total estimated electorate of 12,203,727. These figures, published in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, do not cover all the brigades due to problems of communication.
3,059,794 people were registered last year in the 53 municipalities, prior to the local elections of 20 November. There were an estimated 9,143,923 potential voters to be registered this year, and so far STAE has registered 6,276,245 of them - 68.64 per cent. By province, organised from north to south, the figures, including new registrations, and those from last year, are as follows:
Niassa - 528,204 (70.17 per cent of a total estimated electorate of 752,653)
Cabo Delgado - 868,095 (92.88 per cent of 934,653)
Nampula - 1,807,839 (73.93 per cent of 2,445,251)
Zambezia - 1,445,695 (65.74 per cent of 2,198,943)
Tete - 824,145 (73.32 per cent of 1,123,978)
Manica - 644,884 (77.39 per cent of 833,197)
Sofala - 816,564 (87.18 per cent of 936,610)
Inhambane - 541,817 (78.03 per cent of 694,302)
Gaza - 496,438 (75.49 per cent of 657,615)
Maputo province - 688,330 (77.31 per cent of 890,406)
Maputo City - 674,028 (91.57 per cent of 736,119)
The STAE director of civic education and training, Claudio Langa, told “Noticias” he was optimistic about the success of the registration, and was sure that in the final week it would be possible to register more than two million voters.
To ensure success STAE has extended the opening hours of the registration posts (which initially closed at 16.00), and has increased the number of brigade members in the areas of greatest population concentration, Langa said. STAE has also increased the allowances paid to brigade members, and improved technical assistance for the computer equipment used.