Mozambique: Voter Registration Starts On 20 February

Maputo — Voter registration for Mozambique's sixth municipal elections, scheduled for October next year, will start on 20 February, and last until 5 April.

Speaking on Tuesday at the usual press briefing after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), the government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Filimão Suaze, said that these dates had been proposed by the National Elections Commission (CNE), and accepted by the Council of Ministers.

Currently, Mozambique has 53 municipalities, but it has been suggested that other towns should be upgraded to municipal status before the 2023 local elections.

Proposals for new municipalities should be made by the Ministry of State Administration. Asked whether it is reasonable to set up new municipalities at this stage, Suaze declined to answer on the grounds that the matter was not discussed at the meeting.

Certainly, expanding the number of municipalities will also increase the cost of the elections, and the CNE has repeatedly complained that it does not know where the money will come from. The budget for the municipal elections is 9.1 billion meticais (about 142 million US dollars, at the current exchange rate), of which the CNE so far has only received one billion meticais.

The government and the CNE want to hold the elections in all municipalities - but there are serious doubts as to whether voting will be possible in Mocimboa da Praia, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

Mocimboa da Praia was occupied by islamist terrorists for about a year. Mozambican and Rwandan forces expelled the jihadists from the municipality in August 2021, but many of the residents have not yet returned to the town.

Some of them fled to other municipalities, such as the provincial capital, Pemba, and the towns of Montepuez, Mueda and Chiure. The question facing the CNE is whether these people should be allowed to vote for the Mocimboa da Praia municipal assembly, even though they do not currently live there, or whether the Mocimboa da Praia election should be postponed.

The voter registration is from scratch. One of the peculiarities of the Mozambican system is that every five years, the entire electorate is registered - first for the municipal election, and then for the general elections the following year. New voter cards are issued, and the old ones become useless. Thus, someone who voted in the first multi-party elections in 1994, will by now have registered as a voter six times, and must now register for a seventh.

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