Maputo — As expected, the Mozambican government has fixed Thursday, 22 November, as the date for the rerun of the municipal elections at eight polling stations in the town of Marromeu, in the central province of Sofala.
The Council of Ministers (Cabinet) took this decision at an extraordinary meeting on Monday, following the rejection of the Marromeu result by the Constitutional Council, the country's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law.
The Council found that, when the municipal elections were held on 10 October, in those eight polling stations there had been "serious irregularities which endangered the freedom, fairness and transparency of the election".
The Council had, on 26 October, rejected an appeal from the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, against the Marromeu results because Renamo had submitted the appeal a day late, and had not made any objection at the polling stations where the irregularities occurred, or to the Marromeu District Elections Commission. But this did not prevent the Council from drawing its own conclusions, and it threw out the results from the same eight polling stations mentioned in the Renamo appeal.
Rioting had occurred in the polling centres during the count on the night of 10 October, during which four people were shot. From the ruling given by the Marromeu District Court and from police statements, the Council concluded that the rioting made it impossible for parties to present protests at the polling stations.
Renamo also claimed that, during the chaos, polling station chairpersons falsified results sheets, giving victory to the ruling Frelimo Party in places where, in reality, Renamo had the largest number of votes.
The Constitutional Council thus struck down the Marromeu result announced by the National Elections Commission on 24 October, which gave Frelimo victory by 8,330 votes (47.13 per cent) to 7,810 for Renamo (44.19 per cent).
The same political parties will be on the ballot paper this time as on 10 October, but no fresh campaigning is allowed.
Each polling station has seven members of staff (MMVs) - four are recruited by the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), and the other three are appointed by the political parties represented in parliament - Frelimo, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
STAE spokesperson Claudio Langa told AIM on Tuesday that it is the responsibility of the three parties to choose their MMVs. They can be the same people who worked at the polling stations on 10 October, or the parties can choose different representatives.
As for those hired by STAE, Langa said the performance of those who manned the polling stations on 10 October will be taken into account. Anyone who was complicit in the irregularities will not be re-hired, and their places will be taken by MMVs from other Marromeu polling stations who have a clean record.
The Marromeu district branch of STAE has been instructed to undertake voter education, informing the citizens registered in the eight polling stations that they should vote again, and why. This should not be a difficult task, since less than 6,000 voters are registered at these stations.