Mozambique: Nyusi Calls for Maturity From Constitutional Council

Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Friday called for high levels of maturity and technical competence from the Constitutional Council, the country's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law.

Speaking at the Maputo ceremony where he swore into office the new chairperson of the Council, Lucia Ribeiro, and her collective of judges, Nyusi said "the Council is at the top of the administration of justice, with regard to the analysis of constitutional matters, and so a high degree of technical competence and maturity is demanded of Council members to guarantee excellence in the constitutional jurisdiction".

Nyusi challenged the Council to exercise its duties in obedience to the law and not to political party interests. He wanted the Council's judges to fight against the perception that the Council consists of political party groups, and that the cases that come before it are judged from a political party point of view.

This perception arises from the way in which the Council is formed. It has seven judges, one of whom is appointed by the President, and one by the regulatory body for judges, the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy (CSMJ). But the other five are elected by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on the basis of "proportional representation". This means that the largest parliamentary group, that of the ruling Frelimo Party nominates three judges, and the main opposition party, Renamo, nominates two.

Nyusi insisted that judges must be independent of political parties. "It is important to preserve the Independence of the judges and their duty to obey the Constitution, the law and their conscience", he stressed.

Nyusi also referred to the experience of Ribeiro, who joined the Constitutional Council in 2003, and has served three terms of office (each lasting five years). She became the first woman to chair the Council when her predecessor, Hermenegildo Gamito, resigned in May, citing his advanced age as the reason.

"The experience you have accumulated will certainly be an added value for you in the exercise of your new duties", Nyusi told Ribeiro.

With presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections scheduled for 15 October, Nyusi continued, "the Constitutional Council will be called upon to exercise its duty of ensuring that the results are faithful to the will of the electorate".

Ribeiro told reporters that the Council is prepared to deal with any situation that may arise, particularly election disputes. In the first instance, election disputes are herd by the district courts - but there are always a large number of appeals, which must be heard by the Constitutional Council.

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