Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Thursday rejected the candidacy of Antonio Frangoulis, proposed by the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, for membership of the Constitutional Council, the country's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law.
The Council has seven judges - a chairperson appointed by the President of the Republic, a member appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy (CSMJ), the regulatory body for judges, and five others elected by the Assembly. Candidates are proposed by the political parties represented in the Assembly, in proportion to the number of seats they hold.
This means that the ruling Frelimo Party proposes three Constitutional Council members and the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, proposes two. The third party in the Assembly, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), only has 17 members in its parliamentary group, which is not enough to give it the right to propose a Council member.
Initially, Renamo did not propose Frangoulis. Instead, it wanted a further term of office for Manuel Franque, who was nominated by Renamo in 2004, and has been a Constitutional Council judge ever since.
But within Renamo there is resentment against Franque, because he has frequently voted with the other judges on the Council against election appeals lodged by Renamo. He has voted as a judge and not as a political appointee.
So on 23 July, Renamo announced that it wanted to replace Franque with Frangoulis, who was once head of the Maputo branch of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC).
But Frangoulis is widely distrusted, due to his record of jumping from one political party to another. He won a seat in the Assembly on the Frelimo ticket in the general elections of 2004, but then switched his allegiance to the MDM in 2014. He was an MDM parliamentary candidate that year but failed in his bid for elections. In mid-2018, he left the MDM and accused the Party of operating in an "undemocratic" manner. He has now thrown his lot in with Renamo.
This record guaranteed him the enmity of both Frelimo and the MDM. To make matters worse, when he submitted the paperwork supporting his candidacy for the Constitutional Council, he failed to provide the Assembly with the medical certificate of physical fitness.
The other candidates, three proposed by Frelimo and one by Renamo, all included the medical certificate among their documents.
The Commission's opinion, given on Wednesday, was that the lack of a medical certificate, plus the "public posture" of Frangoulis, should rule him out as a possible Constitutional Council judge.
The initial reaction of Frangoulis and his supporters was a claim that no medical certificate was required, and that the Assembly's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Commission, which screened the candidates, was making up requirements that were not included in the law.
One Renamo deputy, Antonio Muchanga, accused the Commission of telling lies, and said that any Christians on the Commission "will go to Hell".
Muchanga was infuriated that initially Renamo members on the Commission agreed with Frelimo and the MDM and voted against Frangoulis.
This all changed on Thursday when Frangoulis suddenly delivered the missing medical certificate. Renamo, which was still claiming that the certificate was unnecessary, asked the Legal Affairs Commission to re-assess his candidacy. Under pressure from hardliners such as Muchanga, the Renamo members of the Commission now changed their tune and urged acceptance of Frangoulis.
When the chairperson of the Commission, Edson Macuacua, gave its verdict to the Assembly plenary, he pointed out that the Commission's opinion of the previous day unanimously rejected Frangoulis. The same requirements demanded of Frangoulis had also been demanded of the other candidates, who had all met them.
"Candidates cannot have a different or discriminatory treatment", he said. Even the second Renamo candidate, Albino Nhacassa, had presented the certificate.
Now, when it was too late, Frangoulis produced the certificate, "thus contradicting the basis of his own request for the commission to re-analyse its opinion", said Macuacua. Renamo argued no certificate was needed, yet Frangoulis presented one.
The Commission was in no mood to rewrite its opinion, and continued to believe that Frangoulis should not join the Constitutional Council.
The matter went to a vote in the Assembly plenary. Frangoulis was rejected by 146 votes from Frelimo and MDM deputies against 43 from Renamo.
The other four candidates were uncontroversial and received unanimous support. Those proposed by Frelimo included two jurists who are already members of the Council, Mateus Saize and Domingos Cintura, and Albano Macie, the author of several books on law who is currently the Deputy Minister of State Administration.
Renamo's second nominee, Albino Nhacassa, is an advisor to the second deputy president of the Assembly, Younusse Amade, and a member of the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office.