Maputo — With just four days left before Mozambique's general and provincial elections, thousands of independent observers have still not received their credentials, casting serious doubts over the integrity and transparency of the entire election.
When AIM asked the spokesperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Paulo Cuinica, on Wednesday about the delay in issuing credentials, he claimed that the electoral bodies were working their way through a backlog of applications, and that all observers would receive their credentials before polling day.
But in the ensuing two days, the situation has not improved much. The issue was raised by diplomats and foreign observers at a meeting with Mozambican Foreign Minister Jose Pacheco. The press were excluded from the part of the meeting where Pacheco responded to these concerns - however, reporters later learnt that the Minister merely promised to raise the matter with the National Elections Commission (CNE).
Also on Thursday the spokesperson for the CNE's executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), Claudio Langa, declined to guarantee that the credentials would be issued.
He put some of the blame on the observer organisations themselves for failing to supply adequate information. Even if this were true, the electoral bodies in the provinces broke the law by failing to respond to observer applications within the legal deadline of five days.
According to the "Mozambique Political Process Bulletin", published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), the organisation with the largest number of credentials not yet issued is EISA (Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa).
EISA, with the largest observer pool, received 799 credentials yesterday, but none from Zambezia and Nampula, the two largest provincial constituencies, where 1,981 credentials are still needed; in all EISA still needs 4495 credentials.
CIP says it submitted its application for election credentials for Zambezia on 17 July and eventually received an informal, verbal request for more documents, which were submitted on 27 August. Since then there has been no response, despite the five day limit in the law.
The Bulletin notes that "Of our 487 correspondents, CIP has not received 72 credentials from Zambezia and Nampula and there has been no contact or explanation. These have been resubmitted to the CNE in Maputo and are being processed, but there is no assurance that they can be issued in time to be sent to correspondents in remote districts in time for Tuesday's election".
The coalition of observer groups known as the Sala da Paz (Peace Room) said on Thursday that it has not received credentials for about 300 observers in Zambezia, and another 300 in Nampula.
The Zambezia branch of STAE says it has issued 8,000 credentials and Nampula 5,000 - but these are mainly to little known groups, believed to be aligned with the ruling Frelimo Party. According to the Bulletin, STAE-Zambezia says it has not had time to process the applications from EISA, CIP and Sala da Paz - which proves that it did indeed prioritise the applications from other groups.
Without credentials observers cannot do their job - they cannot see what is happening at the polling stations, or at the district offices where the votes from the polling stations are tabulated.