Maputo — Quelimane (Mozambique), 14 Oct (AIM) - The Mozambican police in the central province of Zambezia on Sunday urged all voters to leave the polling stations once they have cast their ballots in Tuesday's general election, and to ignore those politicians who have urged them to remain at the stations throughout the day.
"We urge all voters to act in accordance with the law, and to refrain from doing what some people encouraged during the election campaign - which is to stay at the voting centres after they have voted", said the director of public order and security in the Zambezia Provincial Command, Antonio Paulo.
Speaking at a press conference in the provincial capital, Quelimane, he warned that the police will not allow people who have already voted to hang around the polling stations afterwards.
"This is expressly forbidden by law, and the police will not tolerate it", Paulo said. "The police will take measures in terms of the law".
The people who urged voters to break the law would not be the ones who suffer the consequences, he added. Those liable to arrest would be those who stayed at the polling stations after voting, and not those who urged them to do this.
The politician who has most insisted that voters should stay at the polling stations to "control the vote" is Manuel de Araujo, the mayor of Quelimane, and the candidate of the main opposition party, Renamo, for governor of Zambezia. Other opposition figures, from both Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), have followed his lead, urging their followers to stay at the polling stations.
On this issue Paulo was right - the law is very clear. Article 74 of the law governing presidential and parliamentary elections states: "The presence at the polling assemblies of a) citizens who are not voters, and b) citizens who have already voted, is not allowed".
Those people who can stay in the polling station throughout are the seven members of the polling station staff (MMVs), the accredited monitors of the competing candidates and parties, one policeman per polling station, paramedical staff, and accredited observers and media professionals.
Realising the obstacle posed by this article, Araujo backed down somewhat and in later speeches said voters should stay, but outside a radius of 300 metres.
However, Article 74 says nothing about crowds of voters being allowed to mill around as long as they are 300 metres from the polling centre.
The only mentions of the figure of "300 metres" in the law are for a very different purpose. Thus article 84 states that all political propaganda, including the wearing of political party T-shirts, is forbidden within a radius of 300 metres from the polling stations. Article 85 states that no armed force, apart from the one policeman on duty at each polling station, is allowed within 300 metres of a polling centre.
As for "controlling the vote", political parties are supposed to have two methods of doing this. The first is through the two monitors that each party is allowed at every polling station, and the second is through those MMVs appointed by the parties.
Of the seven MMVs at each station, four are selected by STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) through public tender, and the other three are appointed by the parties with seats in parliament - Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM.
These, plus the presence of observers and journalists, are supposed to be guarantees of the honesty and integrity of the vote. They are certainly better placed to see what is going on than a crowd of citizens milling around 300 metres away.