Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, is fighting to have four candidates for the post of provincial governor from the ruling Frelimo Party disqualified on the grounds that they registered as voters in provinces other than the ones in which they intend to stand.
However, the Minister of State Administration, Carmelita Namashalua interviewed on Wednesday by the independent television channel STV, said there is nothing wrong with this.
She declared that unlike the law on municipal assemblies, which states that any candidate for mayor must be resident in the municipality, the legislation on provincial assemblies does not oblige candidates for governor to be registered in that province. "It is enough that the candidate be registered anywhere in the country", she said.
She was reacting to the Renamo election agent, Venancio Mondlane, who declared that "the spirit of decentralisation is exactly to give power and opportunities to those who are resident and who registered locally, so that they may be elected and solve problems of their areas". He thought it "absurd" and "an aberration" that a person registered as a voter in one province should be allowed to stand for governor of another.
The four Frelimo candidates whom Renamo is trying to disqualify are:
1. Julio Parruque. Running for governor of Maputo province, but registered in Cabo Delgado, where he is currently governor.
2. Francisca Tomas. Running for governor of her home province of Manica, but registered in Niassa, where she is currently governor.
3. Manuel Rodrigues. Running for governor in Nampula, but registered in Manica where he is currently governor.
4. Judite Massangele. Running for governor of Niassa, but registered in Cabo Delgado.
Although Mondlane's arguments make good sense from the point of view of decentralisation, the law is on Namashalua's side.
The law on provincial assembly elections passed in May this year states that any candidate for governor, or for membership of an assembly, must be at least 18 years old, must be a registered voter, and must be eligible to stand (people not eligible to stand include soldiers on active service, magistrates, diplomats, members of the electoral bodies, and a range of other public officials). Crucially, the law says nothing about the candidates' residential status.
This is very different from the previous law on provincial elections, of 2014, which explicitly stated that all candidates for membership of a provincial assembly must be residents of the province for which they are standing.
This residential qualification was quietly removed from the law, and apparently Renamo did not notice. Indeed, the Renamo parliamentary group voted unanimously in favour of the new law.
Renamo is now submitting its protest over the four Frelimo candidates to the National Elections Commission (CNE).