Maputo — The chairperson of Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, on Friday urged the political parties who intend to compete in the general elections scheduled for 15 October to submit their lists of candidates in good time.
Speaking at a meeting in Maputo between the CNE and representatives of the parties, Carimo said the sooner the lists are presented, the more time the CNE will have to analyse them, and the parties to correct any irregularities that are detected.
36 political parties, three coalitions of parties and one independent group of citizens have registered with the CNE to participate in the elections. But that is the easy part of the procedure. Registration does not guarantee participation.
The parties must now submit their lists of candidates. Carimo pointed out that to stand in a parliamentary constituency, a party must present a list with enough names to fill every seat in the constituency, plus at least three supplementary candidates. He suggested that it would be wise to submit more than three supplementary names.
For, if four of the full candidates are disqualified because of irregularities in their nomination papers, and there are only three supplementary candidates, then the party concerned will not be able to stand in that constituency.
Judging by past experience, the three main parties, the ruling Frelimo Party, the former rebel movement Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) will have little difficulty in meeting this requirement. But the dozens of tiny "parties" may have great difficulties in finding enough valid candidates.
These are political parties in name only. They have few members, few votes, and most of them have no offices, no publications and no websites. They are invisible between elections, appearing every five years in an attempt to claim some of the money that the state distributes to parties competing in general elections.
Carimo said the CNE is organising training sessions throughout the country, so that the political parties and other stakeholders understand the procedures and formalities involved in running for parliament or for the provincial assemblies.
"Today we are here with the political parties, represented by their election agents, to explain the procedures, in the light of the new laws", he said. "Actions of this sort are scheduled throughout the country to ensure that the stakeholders master the materials and thus avoid subjective interpretations".
The major change in the law concerns the election of provincial assemblies. For the first time, the provincial governors will be elected, rather than appointed by the President of the Republic. The person whose name is at the top of the winning list in any province will automatically become the governor.
In previous provincial assembly elections, the districts were constituencies and each candidate was elected from a district. This time, only 85 per cent of the candidates will be elected by districts, and the remaining 15 per cent from the entire province. It is by no means clear how this will work in practice.
All nomination papers for candidates must be submitted between 2 July and 1 August (although there is nothing to stop well-organised parties from choosing their candidates advance).
Although the electoral calendar is tight, Carimo guaranteed that the CNE will ensure that the elections will indeed be held on time. "Our challenge is to hold elections this year, and on the scheduled date", he said. "Compliance with the electoral calendar is fundamental".
Alcido Nguenha, representing Frelimo, told the meeting that his party is working throughout the country to guarantee that the paperwork for its parliamentary and provincial candidates is submitted in good time.
Frelimo, he said, is organised and prepared to meet the challenges posed by the amended electoral legislation. "These are new procedures which really demand a strengthening of our organisation", he said. "The CNE did well to call the parties together to update them about the procedures".
Renamo election agent Venancio Mondlane agreed. He too thought it was important for the electoral bodies to meet with the parties to explain any doubts about the submission of candidates.
But he was disappointed that the meeting did not discuss an updated electoral calendar, but only dealt with the paperwork required for candidates.
Mondlane said that Renamo has begun its district conferences to select candidates. "We already have practically everything organised, despite the tight calendar", he added.