Mozambique: Credentials for Independent Observers Still Not Issued

Maputo — Illegal resistance to issuing credentials to independent election observers has continued to the last minute in four Mozambican provinces - Nampula, Zambezia, Tete and Gaza - according to the "Mozambique Political Process Bulletin", published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP).

The main victims of the illicit behavior of the provincial elections commissions is EISA (Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa), which coordinates five independent civil society observer groups.

By the end of Monday, the final day prior to the election, 3,103 EISA observers had still not received credentials,

According to the Bulletin, on Monday only 276 credentials were issued to EISA - 115 in Tete and 161 in Maputo province. On Sunday, 248 EISA credentials were issued - 110 in Nampula and 138 in Manica. Only 129 were issued on Saturday, all in Maputo city. In the past four days, not a single credential was issued to EISA observers in either Zambezia or Gaza. Among the organisations coordinated by EISA, and thus denied credentials, is the Catholic Church.

The bulletin believes this is a deliberate attempt to obstruct independent observation. The refusal to grant credentials is a gross violation of the electoral law, which states that all applications for observer credentials must be responded to within five days. Even if mistakes are made in the applications, the electoral bodies must respond with a demand for corrections. But in many cases no reply at all has been given.

The CNE claims that over 41,605 Mozambican observers have been accredited. These include 19,700 for Zambezia and 9,935 for Nampula - figures which the Bulletin found "incredible". With experienced, independent bodies such as EISA denied credentials, it seems that - if the figure of 41,605 is accurate - these observers are likely to come from bodies that are aligned with the ruling Frelimo Party.

In Zambezia only 206 of the credentials issued are for EISA - although EISA requested 1,433 credentials.

Failure to provide sufficient credentials to independent observers compromises the ability of the observer groups to produce a parallel count of the results. In previous elections the parallel count has been a valuable check on the integrity of the vote - this time, the deliberate refusal to grant credentials raises serious doubts about the transparency of the elections.

In his broadcast to the nation on Monday, the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, boasted that no other African country had issued so many observer credentials for an election, but did not explain the selective nature of issuing the credentials.

Carimo criticized those election politicians who are encouraging citizens to break the law by staying at the polling centres after they have voted - but he said nothing about the violations of the law committed by the electoral bodies themselves by failing to issue credentials within the five day deadline.

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