Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, intends to appeal to the Attorney-General's Office (PGR) to overrule the National Elections Commission (CNE), which ruled at the weekend that it is quite in order for the ruling Frelimo Party to run as candidates for provincial governor in the forthcoming general elections people who are not resident or registered as voters in the provinces for which they are running.
Four of Frelimo's candidates for provincial governor are in this situation. They 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.
According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", the Renamo election agent, Venancio Mondlane, argued that the CNE's decision was based on a "fragmented interpretation" of the law passed in May on the election of members of the provincial assemblies and the provincial governors.
The law 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, this paragraph in 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.
Mondlane, however, argued that it is not enough to look at this one clause in the law. He cites Article three of the law which says: "universal suffrage is a right of voters resident in the province, and registered in that territorial constituency". In his view this also applies to candidates.
There is, in fact, a much stronger argument which Mondlane overlooked. The law states (Article 13) that only people who have the right to vote may stand as governor. That right is restricted (by Article 10) to people who are resident in the province.
The amendment of the law in May was thus incoherent. It removed the residential qualification from one article, but left it, albeit implicitly, in another.
Mondlane said that Renamo will appeal to the PGR in a matter of days, arguing that the four Frelimo candidates should be charged with the crime of "felonious candidacy", an offence which carries a prison term of between six months and two years.