Maputo — According to the latest statistics from the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), about 4.6 million Mozambican, out of a target of 7.34 million, have so far registered as voters, ahead of the general elections scheduled for 15 October
To this figure must be added the 6.8 million people who registered last year for the municipal elections, in the districts containing municipalities. The new registration, which began on 15 April and is due to end on 30 May, should bring the total electorate to around 14.1 million.
One of the peculiarities of the Mozambican system is that voter registration is done from scratch every five years, and the old voter cards become invalid. Someone who attained his 18th birthday in 1994, the year of the first multi-party elections is now 43 years old and this will be his sixth voter card - all of them utterly useless, except the most recent.
The 5,096 voter registration brigades are registering all potential voters in the non-municipal districts. They are also issuing new cards to voters in the municipalities who have lost their 2018 card - and there are expected to be a large number of these in the areas affected by the recent cyclone and floods. They will also handle changes of address whereby voters must change the municipality or province where they are registered to vote.
The latest figures cover the five weeks from 15 April to 19 May. In this period, 4,590,347 people registered - which is 62.52 per cent of the target. To reach the target, the brigades must now register 2.75 million voters between 20 and 30 May - or about a quarter of a million a day.
At a Tuesday press conference, STAE spokesperson Claudio Langa said in the previous week registration had been running at 132,000 a day - which may sound impressive, but is nowhere near enough to meet the target.
There are still major discrepancies between the provinces. Gaza has reached 87.66 per cent of its target, and Cabo Delgado 81.15 per cent. Lagging a long way behind are the central provinces of Zambezia and Manica, which have registered 72.5 and 71.6 per cent of their targets respectively.
Doing worst are the areas which should be easiest to cover, Maputo city and Maputo province, which have only reached 41.47 and 45.07 per cent of their targets. Much of the Maputo City electorate is already registered, thanks to last year's municipal elections, but STAE estimated there are still 120,655 people in the city who reach the voting age of 18 this year, or who did not register last year, for whatever reason.
As for Maputo province, much of its electorate is in the provincial capital, Matola, and several sources, including the third largest political party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), indicate that some of the registration brigades are deliberately creating obstacles for new voters. They claim that the brigades are demanding a declaration from the neighbourhood secretariat proving the residence of the would-be voters: this is an illegal demand, and under the law on voter registration, no such declaration is required.
The provincial figures issued by STAE are as follows
Niassa 47.34 per cent
Cabo Delgado 81.15 per cent
Nampula 56.62 per cent
Zambezia 72.5 per cent
Tete 55.57 per cent
Manica 71.6 per cent
Sofala 50.36 per cent
Inhambane 56.99 per cent
Gaza 87.66 per cent
Maputo province 45.07 per cent
Maputo city 41.47 per cent
Total 62.52 per cent
At this rate, 1.5 million people eligible to vote could easily be omitted from the registers. Despite this, the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, has made it clear that there will be no extension to the registration period - even for provinces such as Sofala, which sustained enormous damage from cyclone Idai in March.
STAE also published figures for registration abroad, in the nine countries where Mozambicans are entitled to vote. After a poor start, registration in the diaspora has now reached 98,129, or 84.27 per cent of the target figure of 118,440.
This is largely due to South Africa, which hosts the largest community of Mozambicans abroad. STAE had estimated the potential Mozambican electorate in South Africa at 65,536, but by Sunday 71,344 had registered (108.86 per cent of the target).