Maputo — Six minor Mozambican political parties attempted to submit the nomination papers for their parliamentary candidates past the deadline set by the National Elections Commission (CNE), and were rejected.
Parties were given a full month - from 2 July to 15.30 on 1 August - to submit the paperwork for their candidates.
But on the last day, "more than ten parties wanted to submit lists of candidates", CNE member Jose Belmiro told the independent television station STV. "It was already late, so we gave them tickets to come back the next day (Friday)".
But those who arrived after 15.30 did not receive tickets, and were automatically rejected. But they came back on Friday anyway, and found that the CNE was serious, and was not accepting any more candidates.
"The people are waiting for me to present this candidacy. The people want to vote and to choose another political force", claimed Marciano Fijamo, of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD).
Not many people, certainly. The PPD came last in the 2014 parliamentary elections with the grand total of 158 votes, which rounds down to 0.0 per cent.
Pahumo (Humanist Party of Mozambique) also appeared on Friday. Its representative Benildo Bulo said "We believe in the good will of the CNE" - but he was disappointed. For the CNE, electoral deadlines are a serious matter, and the parties who showed up late will not be on the ballot paper.
Also rejected was the Democratic Alliance Coalition (CAD), a group of six tiny parties, which had attempted to run Alice Mabota, former chairperson of the Human Rights League (LDH), in the presidential elections.
All presidential nominations are vetted by the Constitutional Council, Mozambique's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law. When the Council analysed Mabota's nomination, it found that thousands of her supporting signatures were invalid.
Mabota and a second would-be presidential candidate, Helder Mendonca, of Podemos (Party of Optimists for the Development of Mozambique), gave a press conference on Friday, at which they claimed they had been unfairly excluded.
They claimed that the Council had not presented evidence of the irregularities it alleged, and that the Council had been determined to prevent the emergence of "new political actors". (There is nothing "new" about Alice Mabota, who has been politically active for more than a quarter of a century, and who once attempted, unsuccessfully, to become mayor of Maputo).
"We didn't fail - we were excluded, because we are a threat", claimed Mabota. But the real threats to the ruling Frelimo Party are certainly the former rebel movement Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), whose candidates had no difficulty providing the 10,000 supporting signatures required by the electoral law.
Nonetheless, she claimed that the Mozambican system is "rotten" and that she and Mendonca (a musical entrepreneur who is not widely known) were feared by "the regime".
In fact, the Constitutional Council explained in considerable detail what was wrong with the signatures submitted by Mabota and Mendonca.
Any presidential candidate must submit 10,000 signatures of registered voters, each of them recognised by a public notary. But the Constitutional Council found that some of the forms bearing signatures had "flagrant evidence that they had been signed by the same person". There were people supposedly supporting these candidates whose voter card numbers were in a numerical sequence "which leads us to assume that they are mere copies of the voter registers".
Some of the forms bore no signature at all, some gave incomplete voter card numbers, some had signatures without a voter card number (making it impossible to check whether the people concerned were registered voters), and some of the signatures had not been recognised by a notary. In addition some of the supporters had signed more than once, either for the same candidate or for different candidates.
Of the 13,160 signatures supposedly supporting Alice Mabota, 5,611 proved to be invalid. Of these 688 were written in the same handwriting, 144 were not recognised by a notary, 3,085 had incorrect voter card numbers, 1,073 gave invalid voter card numbers, 1,091 had submitted two or more forms supporting Mabota, and 218 were of people who had supported both Mabota and another candidate.
Similarly, 4,147 of the 12,250 signatures for Helder Mendonca were invalid. Of his supporters, 1,834 gave incorrect voter card numbers, 1,700 gave invalid numbers, 492 either submitted two forms supporting Mendonca or supporting Mendonca and another candidate, 146 of the signatures were in the same handwriting, and 121 were not recognised by a notary.
The Council notified the three candidates of these irregularities on 23 July. They had seven days to produce valid signatures to replace those that the Council threw out. They attempted to do so, but the same problems recurred.
An additional 3,139 signatures for Alice Mabota were presented, of which only 858 were valid. Of the additional 2.043 signatures for Mendonca, just 283 were valid. In the end, Mabota had 8,577 valid signatures, and Mendonca 8,523.
It is not impossible for candidates from minor parties to get onto the presidential ballot paper, provided they do the hard work required to collect a significant number of valid signatures. Thus the Council accepted the paperwork from Mario Albino, a dissident from the MDM who has set him his own party, AMUSI (Action of the United Movement for All-round Salvation).
Fraudulent signatures are nothing new - the same problem was found in the 2009 and 2014 presidential elections, when minor parties tried, and failed, to pull the wool over the eyes of the Constitutional Council. In 2014, the Council had criticised notaries for recognising "flagrantly forged signatures", and now, five years later, "inexplicably the same situation is persisting".
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