Maputo — Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) spent most of the past weekend approving the final lists of candidates for the parliamentary and provincial assembly elections scheduled for 15 October.
But most of the time (over 40 hours) was spent on just one issue - whether candidates of the ruling Frelimo Party standing for governor in four provinces, but registered as voters in different provinces, are eligible.
The four candidates in question are:
1. Francisca Tomas, candidate for governor of Manica. Registered in Niassa where she is currently governor.
2. Julio Parruque, candidate for governor of Maputo province. Registered in Cabo Delgado, where he is governor.
3. Manuel Rodrigues, candidate for governor of Nampula. Registered in Manica, where he is governor.
4. Judite Massangele, candidate for governor of Niassa, Registered in Nampula.
The main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, argued that the spirit of decentralisation would be violated, if candidates were allowed to run for the post of governor in provinces where they were neither resident nor registered as voters. Frelimo, however, argued that there was no legal obstacle to prevent their candidates running for provinces where they had not registered.
The letter of the law appears to be on Frelimo's side. The 2014 law on provincial elections stated clearly that all candidates for the provincial assemblies had to be resident in the province. But the residence requirement was removed when the law was amended this year.
Nonetheless, it is clearly awkward for Frelimo to ask the population of, for instance, Manica to vote for a candidate for governor who must cast her own vote hundreds of kilometres away in Niassa.
The four controversial candidates registered as voters ahead of the 2018 municipal elections. They have not altered their registration since then, and, under Mozambican electoral law, must vote in October where they are registered.
Since no consensus was possible, the CNE eventually voted on the issue, and the Frelimo position won with eight votes in favour, seven against and two abstentions.
Last week, President Filipe Nyusi granted Francisca Tomas, Manuel Rodrigues and Julio Parruque leave of absence, so that they can dedicate themselves to the election campaign, which starts on 31 August.
This is in line with the electoral law, which states that any candidate for membership of a provincial assembly has the right to be exempted from his or her normal duties in the 45 days prior to the election.
Once the elections are over, the three will resume their posts as governors.