Maputo — The chairperson of Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, has guaranteed that the conditions now exist to register all potential voters in the areas of the central provinces of Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia that were struck by cyclone Idai in mid-March.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Carimo said "We understand that many people have been displaced from their homes, and so studies are being made. In terms of voter registration material, it is ready and is being sent to the provinces. On our side, our readiness is total".
He admitted that there are still difficulties in reaching some of the cyclone-hit areas. The main roads have been repaired, but not all of the secondary roads. Food aid is still being airlifted to some localities, particularly in Sofala.
"We have 45 days to carry out the voter registration", said Carimo. "If we don't do it on the first day, we'll do it on the second or on the tenth day. But our watchword is to register every last citizen of voting age".
The estimate of the total potential electorate is 13 million. Some of these were already registered for the October 2018 municipal elections, and the voter cards issued then remain valid. The registration brigades must concentrate on the areas where there are no municipalities, and, within the municipal areas, on citizens who attained the age of 18 after last year's elections.
Citizens are supposed to register where they live - but this will prove difficult for people displaced from their homes and living in government-run accommodation centres. Much of the population of Buzi district, for example, fled from the floods into Beira where they are still living. But if they register in Beira, they will also be expected to vote in Beira, although by the election date of 15 October, most of them will certainly have returned to their home areas.
The northern province of Cabo Delgado poses a different problem. Insurgents believed to be inspired by islamic fundamentalism have attacked villages and vehicles in parts of the province (notably the northern districts of Mocimboa da Praia, Macomia, and Palma). Would voter registration be possible under these circumstances?
Carimo said the registration brigades have been guaranteed protection by the defence and security forces.
The insurgents, he said, do not occupy any territory, but only carry out hit and run raids. "We have the defence and security forces who will accompany each of the brigades, and we shall do everything we can to register our fellow citizens in Cabo Delgado".
Asked about the budget for the elections, Carimo said every effort was being made to ensure that the money is available. Earlier in the year the CNE had warned that, of the 14.6 billion meticais (about 231 million dollars) required, only seven billion was available.
But this time Carimo struck an optimistic note, and said that the government has guaranteed to cover the deficit. The government had promised that "no electoral activity will stop for lack of a budget".
Voter registration was initially scheduled to run from 1 April to 15 May. Because of the cyclone and floods, the government postponed it by a fortnight, and it will now run from 15 April to 30 May.