24 May 2018

Mozambique: Parliament Agrees Head of Party list as Mayor, Administrator, Governor - Ending Direct Election of Mayors

Photo: New Times
A voter shows his thumbs with ink after voting (file photo).

Parliament today unanimously agreed in principle constitutional amendments creating the same structure for provinces, districts and municipalities. There will be elected assemblies (which already exist at province and municipality level) and the governor, district administrator and mayor will be head of the list of the party, coalition or citizens list that obtains the most votes (maioria de votos) for the respective assembly. In additional at each level there will be an executive council. In effect, the existing structure of municipalities is copied to district and province, except for the change of how the senior person is elected.

This ends the direct election of mayors, who had sometimes built independent power bases that challenged the leaderships of both Renamo and Frelimo. The head of the candidates list is chosen by the party leadership and has less autonomy than a mayoral candidate, who can always stand as an independent.

The new constitution will apply to provinces from the October 2019 election and municipalities from the October 2018 election, but district elections will only take place in 2024. There was disagreement over how to nominate the district administrator next year, and the compromise is that they will be named, as at present, by the Minister of State Administration, but "in consultation with the provincial governor."

The amendments make clear that decentralisation is administrative and not political. They extend substantial new powers to provinces and districts, but also stress that national interest and national policies must be respected. At each level there will be a representative of central government; at provincial level this will be a secretary of state for the province named by the Mozambican president. Provinces become responsible for primary health care and education while higher levels remain a national responsibility.

A whole package of legislation is now required, including on the powers of the decentralised bodies, the articulation between the central state and the decentralised bodies, and the articulation between the province and the district and municipality. In addition there urgently needs to be a small revision to the electoral law for municipalities, and by next year changes to provincial election (because there is no single list for the provincial assembly currently, as lists are by district). Nothing is said about how the senior person is replaced if they die or quit - the second person on the list, a new election, or some other method?

The first commission of parliament, on constitutional affairs, yesterday tabled a 58 page paper with a host of changes to the constitution - ranging from minor and grammatical to major relating to decentralisation. That report, with all constitutional changes, is available on http://bit.ly/2kiW4Li

Officially the agreement was brokered by the heads of the two parliamentary benches, Margarida Talapa for Frelimo and Ivone Soares for Renamo. On the Renamo side, the new acting party head Ossufo Momade is also a member of parliament. Advising Frelimo have been Eduardo Chiziane, a law professor, and Albano Macie, appointed in March as Deputy Minister of State Administration and the Public Service.

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