Mozambique: Assembly Ratifies Constitutional Council Chair

Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Wednesday ratified the appointment of Lucia Ribeiro, as the new chairperson of the Constitutional Council, the country's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law.

Ribeiro has been a member of the Council since 2003. President Filipe Nyusi appointed her its chairperson, after her predecessor, Hermenegildo Gamito, resigned, citing his advanced age (75 years) as his reason. She is the first woman to head the council.

In the secret ballot vote, 183 deputies voted in favour of ratification and 10 voted against. There were also five invalid votes. But since 202 deputies were supposedly in the chamber, another five must have failed to cast any vote at all.

A secret ballot is obligatory in the Assembly on any matter involving a named individual. It is thus impossible to be certain which deputies voted in which direction, although it is more than likely that all deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party voted in favour of ratification.

The Assembly elects five judges of the Constitutional Council, in proportion to the number of parliamentary seats each party holds. Thus Frelimo nominates three members to the Council, and the former rebel movement Renamo two. The third party in the Assembly, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), only has 17 deputies, which is not enough to nominate any member of the Council.

Nomination does not guarantee election. The deputies are not obliged to vote for a candidate just because he or she has the support of one of the parties.

This time, the Assembly's Legal Affairs Commission is recommending that one of the Renamo nominees, Antonio Frangoulis, should not be elected. Frangoulis has not submitted the medical certificate of fitness for office obligatory for all candidates.

Furthermore, the Commission, without going into details, said that his "public posture" should rule him out for membership of the Council as "the guardian of the moral authority of the Constitution".

The Commission's document, cited by the electronic version of the independent daily "O Pais", said this was the position of deputies from all three parliamentary groups.

Frangoulis was once the head of the Maputo Branch of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC). He won a seat in the Assembly on the Frelimo ticket in the general elections of 2004. Disillusioned with Frelimo, he joined the MDM in 2014, but left this party in 2018, and now appears to have switched his loyalties to Renamo.

There are no problems with the other four candidates - Albano Macie, Domingos Cintura and Mateus Saize, proposed by Frelimo, and Albino Nhacassa, proposed by Renamo.

Cintuar and Saize are already members of the Constitutional Council and are standing for a further term of office. Nhacassa is a member of the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Macie is the Deputy Minister of State Administration, and was Frelimo's last minute replacement for its original choice, Filimao Suaze. Suaze is a member of the Higher Council of the Administrative Judicial Magistracy. But under the previous government, headed by President Armando Guebuza, he was considered a member of the "G40", a list of names of people circulated to some of the media as potential writers of pro-Frelimo opinion pieces. This may have told against him, through Frelimo has given no reason for its change of mind.

The Assembly will elect its judges on Thursday.

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