Mozambique: Renamo Vows to Use Legal Means to Overturn Gaza Voter Registration

Maputo — Venancio Mondlane, the national election agent of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, declared on Monday that Renamo will use all possible means permitted by the country's laws and Constitution, to overturn what it regards as a fundamentally flawed and manipulated voter registration.

Renamo's main concern is with the impossibly high figure given by the National Elections Commission (CNE) for the number of registered voters in the southern province of Gaza. The CNE's executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) set a target for voter registration in Gaza of 1.14 million, and the final number of voters supposedly registered in the province was 1,166,011.

Bu this is much higher than the number of adults of voting age (18 and above) found in the province by the National Statistics Institute (INE) during the population census of 2017. The census counted the number of people in Gaza at 1,422,460. At a population growth rate in the province of 1.2 per cent, the projected size of the Gaza population in 2019 is 1,456,599.

The INE says that of this figure 836,581 people are aged 18 and above (57.4 per cent of the total), and are thus entitled to register as voters. But the CNE/STAE figure is larger by almost 330,000.

STAE received the INE projection on 25 May, while the voter registration was still under way, and thus had time to eliminate the anomalies, but chose not to do so.

The impossible registration figure from Gaza distorts the distribution of parliamentary seats. Provincial constituencies are allocated seats in proportion to the size of their registered electorate. STAE and the CNE allocated 22 seats to Gaza - eight more than the number of seats for Gaza in the current parliament. But on the INE's figures, Gaza would only be entitled to 13 seats.

Last month Renamo appealed to the Constitutional Council, the country's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, against the results of the Gaza registration. The Council threw the appeal out, on the grounds that Renamo had delayed too long before submitting its complaint.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference, Mondlane said the Council had been deceived by the CNE, since in reality Renamo had made several protests in May. He showed reporters copies of correspondence with STAE, showing that Renamo had indeed protested, including against cases where children and Zimbabwean citizens had been registered as voters.

Renamo is now trying to file criminal charges against those CNE and STAE officials it regards as responsible for inflating the number of voters in Gaza, and has also demanded the immediate dismissal of the general director of STAE, Felisberto Naife.

Mondlane added that Renamo is calling for an independent outside audit of the entire voter registration.

Although the inflated figures for Gaza are the most obvious problem, there are headaches in other provinces too - usually due to the omission of voters. Comparing the final result of the registration, with the potential electorate, 1.527 million people had been omitted - Mondlane said this was 40 per cent of the potential electorate, but in fact it is 9.7 per cent of the INE figure for the adult population in 2019, or 10.8 per cent of the STAE estimate of the total electorate.

The largest omission rates were in the central provinces, particularly Zambezia, he said, where around 635,000 potential votes had not been registered.

Renamo would continue to fight to clean up the registration, he promised, "using all means permitted by law, and resorting to national and international instances".

As for specific measures to correct the registration, one possibility, Mondlane said, would be to take the excess parliamentary seats away from Gaza, and redistribute them among the other provinces.

Asked if Renamo could possibly monitor all polling stations in the October elections to prevent fraud, Mondlane claimed that Renamo is training its monitors, and was now structured throughout the country, including in Gaza.

The three main political parties (Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM) have the right to appoint a member of staff and two monitors at each polling station. But in October, there are likely to be well over 17,000 polling stations, and to make full use of its rights, Renamo will have to find well over 50,000 people to man these stations.

Renamo is also suffering severe internal problems, shown dramatically on Sunday when two Renamo parliamentary deputies publicly defected to the MDM. One of them, Albano Balaunde, was a former Renamo delegate for Sofala province, and the other, Sandura Ambrosio, was a former delegate in Beira city.

Asked about the defections, the Renamo national spokesperson, Jose Manteigas, denied that they would weaken Renamo. "Balaunde and others are enjoying their right to join whichever party they like", he said. "We respect this".

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