Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has called for an additional month's delay before starting the voter registration campaign ahead of the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections scheduled for 15 October.
Voter registration was originally scheduled to begin on 1 April and run until 15 May. But in light of the devastation caused in the central provinces by cyclone Idai and the ensuing floods, the government last week altered the electoral calendar, and announced that the registration will be delayed by a fortnight. It will now start on 15 April and last until 30 May.
But, at a Maputo press conference on Monday, Renamo spokesperson Jose Manteigas claimed that the 15 day postponement was far too short. He claimed that, as a result, people affected by the cyclone would not be able to register. Consequently they would lose their right to vote, since only registered citizens may vote.
"15 days is a very short time", he said. "It's a derisory period for people to rebuild their lives. This government decision excludes the people affected by the disastrous situation that shook the centre of the country".
Manteigas called for a 45 day delay, which would mean voter registration would run from 15 May to 30 June. He argued that this would allow time to resettle people in the cyclone and flood affected areas, to draw up a proper map of voter registration sites, and to allow voter education agents to undertake their activities among the public.
"We believe that the voter registration should be delayed by 45 days to allow reasonable psychological rehabilitation of our fellow citizens affected by this catastrophe", he said.
But despite this proposed alteration to the electoral calendar, Renamo does not want any change in the election date itself. Manteigas argued that the election could still be held on 15 October, but the delay in registration should be based on a supposed understanding reached between the political parties and the National Elections Commission (CNE).
"The government should have taken as its basis the proposal from the CNE which indicated a minimum delay of 45 days, without changing the date of 15 October for the elections", he said.
But the CNE denies there was any such proposal. CNE spokesperson Paulo Cuinica told AIM that the CNE had indeed met with the political parties, "but we didn't decide anything, and we couldn't decide anything" (because setting the election date is a government prerogative).
There was general agreement on the need to postpone voter registration, "but I don't recall anyone mentioning 45 days", said Cuinica. "The parties were agreed that the elections should not be postponed into next year".
The CNE did place three possible scenarios before the government - one keeping 15 October as the election date, a second suggesting a month's delay, to 15 November, and a third proposing a postponement to 15 December.
In deciding not to change the election date, the government has stuck to the letter of the law, under which general elections must be held no later than mid-October. This is because of the onset of the rainy season: elections in November or December could be seriously disrupted by heavy rains likely to be falling somewhere in the country.