Mozambique: Citizens Must Leave Polling Stations After Voting

Maputo — Voters must go home after they have cast their ballots, and are not allowed to stay in the polling stations, warned the General Commander of the Mozambican police, Bernadino Rafael, cited in Monday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".

He was reacting to the mayor of Quelimane, and candidate for governor of Zambezia province for the main opposition party, Renamo, Manuel de Araujo, who has repeatedly urged Renamo supporters to stay at the polling stations until the results are announced in order to "control the vote".

The electoral law, however, makes it quite clear that citizens must not hang around the polling stations after voting. It states categorically that citizens who are not voters, or who have already exercised their right to vote are not allowed inside the polling stations. The Renamo parliamentary group voted unanimously in favour of this law.

The people who are allowed inside are the seven members of the polling station staff, duly accredited monitors of the competing parties and candidates, accredited observers and journalists, para-medical staff and one policeman per polling station.

Araujo has retreated slightly from his earlier statements, and now says Renamo supporters should stay 300 metres from the polling station. At that distance, however, nobody can "control" anything, and the presence of hundreds or thousands of people just outside a polling centres is a recipe for chaos - as was shown by ugly clashes with the police that occurred during the 2014 elections.

Rafael stressed that the police will now allow people to remain in the polling stations. "Nobody is authorised to stay in the polling stations after voting, because it is illegal", he said.

He claimed that "people of ill faith", both Mozambicans and foreigners, intended to organise demonstrations after the vote.

Rafael called for calm and urged all citizens to wait for the declaration of the results by the electoral bodies or by the media.

All the competing political parties have the right to be present at the polling stations. They can appoint two monitors for each polling station (only one of whom may be inside the polling station at any time), who have the right to ask questions of the staff, and to make protests or complaints in writing.

Furthermore, the three parties represented in parliament - the ruling Frelimo Party, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) - may appoint members of the polling station staff (MMV). Thus each polling station can have up to seven MMVs - four chosen by the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), and recruited by public tender, and three appointed by the parties.

This was a change in the law, proposed by the MDM parliamentary group and immediately supported by Renamo and Frelimo, in February 2014. At the time it was hailed as a foolproof mechanism for preventing election fraud.

The problem is the sheer number of polling stations. In October, there will be 20,162 polling stations. To provide two monitors and one MMV per polling station, each party should provide 60,586 people.

It is already clear that the opposition parties cannot mobilise that number of people, particularly in areas, such as the southern province of Gaza, which have traditionally been Frelimo strongholds.

Thus the STAE director in the Gaza district of Chokwe, Estevao Chaguala, told AIM at the weekend that the only party meeting its quota for MMVs at Chokwe polling stations is Frelimo. There are 335 Chokwe polling stations, but Renamo has only provided 157 names and the MDM 168.

The parties are not obliged to appoint MMVs, and if they do not appoint them, the polling stations will operate without them.

"The process doesn't stop", said Chaguala, "and when voting day comes, the polling stations will work with however many MMVs are present".

As for why Renamo and the MDM have not met their quota, Chaguala said that was a question only the parties could answer.

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