29 November 2018

Mozambique: CNE Failed to Recount the Marromeu Votes

Maputo — Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) came close to ordering a recount of the votes cast on 22 November in the rerun election at eight polling stations in the central municipality of Marromeu, according to Fernando Mazanga, a CNE member appointed by the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo.

The count at the polling stations was not completed - before the results sheets could be written, the polling station staff (MMVs) illegally threw accredited observers and journalists out of the polling stations, and, under police escort, took all the ballot papers and other materials away.

But by then the observers had taken note of the true results - which contrasted flagrantly with the results announced by the Marromeu District Elections Commission (CDE) the following day. While the parallel count done by observers showed a substantial Renamo victory, the CDE figures transformed this into a triumph for the ruling Frelimo Party.

Mazanga said he, and the other CNE members from the opposition, noted an extraordinarily high turnout reported by the CDE, of well over 80 per cent (the observers put the true turnout at 48 per cent), and in one polling station over 800 people had supposedly voted, although 800 is the maximum number of voters who can be registered at any polling station.

A recount is the obvious way to solve such discrepancies. The electoral law states that "where there is proof that irregularities have occurred at any polling station that call into question the freedom and transparency of the election, the National Elections Commission or the Constitutional Council shall order a recount".

According to Mazanga, it was none other than the CNE chairperson Abdul Carimo himself who suggested a recount. But the CNE members appointed by Frelimo opposed the suggestion, and when the matter came to a vote Carimo abstained. "He failed to support his own proposal", Mazanga said.

The minutes of the CNE meeting approving the Marromeu result were approved by nine votes (including Carimo) to eight. That result gave Frelimo a narrow victory of 45.78 per cent of the votes to 45.53 per cent for Renamo.

Mazanga found it strange that, after the initial Marromeu result had been rejected by the Constitutional Council, the CNE did not send any of its own members to supervise the rerun election. Not even anyone from the Sofala Provincial Elections Commission went to Marromeu, so the whole operation was left in the hands of the CDE, whose work had already been accused of serious irregularities in the first election on 1 October.

The opposition-appointed CNE members accused the CNE of carrying out its count "based on falsified data", and this was "an affront to the Constitution, to the laws, and to the ruling from the Constitutional Council".

After the CNE announced its approval of the result on Thursday, Renamo election agent Andre Majibire told reporters that his party will appeal to the Constitutional Council. "The Council has all the material it needs to reach a conclusion", he said.

The Marromeu district court had already rejected an initial Renamo appeal against the results from the eight polling stations of the rerun election, on the grounds that there had been no prior objection at the polling stations, and Renamo provided no copies of the results sheets.

Majibire said the court's demand was impossible - there was no question of a prior objection, because the polling station chairpersons had abandoned the stations, taking all the election material with them. Renamo was never given any copies of the results sheets that it could submit to the court.

He insisted that Renamo had followed correct procedure. Since it was impossible to make any objection at the polling stations themselves, Renamo had made a complaint at the district police command, but the court took no account of this.

Majibire said "we will stay calm", but added that Renamo intended to draw the attention of foreign diplomats to the Marromeu scandal "so that they can take measures".

Although it came third in the election, the MDM finds itself in a key position. It will only have one member on the new Marromeu Municipal Assembly - but since Frelimo and Renamo are tied with eight members each, that one MDM member may be crucial for determining whether the new Frelimo mayor, Victoria Timbe, will be able to pass her plans or budgets through the Assembly.

Asked about this, the MDM election agent, Jose Manuel de Sousa, replied "We are the boat that has to be used to cross the channel".

Frelimo representative Alcido Nguenha declared that he was satisfied with the results, but was unable to answer questions from journalists about the illegalities that had occurred.

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