Maputo — Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) has ruled out any further extension of the voter registration period, which is due to end on 30 May.
Speaking in Maputo on Wednesday, CNE chairperson Abdul Carimo urged all citizens of voting age (18 and above) to go to the registration post nearest their homes, and register, thus safeguarding their right to vote in the general elections scheduled for 15 October.
He insisted that the registration will indeed end on 30 May. Carimo believed that the 16 days remaining are sufficient for all potential voters to register. He urged them to do so as soon as possible, to avoid long last minute queues at the registration posts.
The registration period has already been extended once. Initially registration was to run from 1 April to 15 May. But, because of the devastation caused by cyclone Idai in the central provinces, the start of registration was postponed by a fortnight to 15 April.
Carimo claimed that all the conditions are in place for successful registration and that all 5,096 registration brigades are fully operational.
That is not what observers say. Throughout the first month of registration there have been problems with power supply for the registration equipment, Without a reliable power supply, it is impossible to print out voter cards.
According to the Mozambique Political Process Bulletin (published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity, CIP), by 14 May about 100 of the 1,144 registration post in the central province of Zambezia had not opened at all because of lack of electricity - they had not received the promised solar panels.
In parts of the country problems have been reported with observers receiving accreditation. This is particularly acute in Zambezia. According to the Bulletin, its own observers applied for credentials over a fortnight ago, but the Provincial Elections Commission (CPE), after a long delay, "responded by demanding documents required for candidates but not observers, including a voters card and a no criminal record certificate, as well as a curriculum vitae for each observer, which is not mentioned in the law even for Presidential candidates".
The "Bulletin" believes that the Zambezia CPE was acting unilaterally - since it had no problem in obtaining credentials for its observers in Manica or Inhambane provinces.
By 12 May, according to the CNE's executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), by 12 May, almost 3.7 million new voters had registered - which is 50.35 per cent of the target figure of 7.34 million. At the current pace of registration only 85 per cent of the potential new voters will have registered by 30 May.
That will deprive about 1.1 million people of their right to vote. Furthermore, the registration is not the same across the country. Lagging badly behind is Sofala, the province worst hit by cyclone Idai, with only 37.7 per cent of its target figure registered. The most populous province, Nampula, has so far only registered 44.2 per cent of its target of 1.7 million new voters.
Both Sofala and Nampula are regarded as strongholds of the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, and if the pace of registration does not pick up in these two provinces over the next fortnight, the opposition is bound to allege foul play. Renamo has already demanded a further extension of the registration period.