Mozambique: Commission Advises Against Holding District Elections in 2024

The Commission set up by the Mozambican government to reflect on the pertinence of holding elections for district assemblies has recommended that district elections should not be held in 2024.

When a package of decentralisation amendments was inserted into the Mozambican constitution in 2018, they included a commitment to set up district assemblies and to hold the first elections to these bodies in 2024. At the time, nobody asked whether this was feasible. Could 154 district assemblies really be elected at the same time as presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections?

The Constitution merely said that the district assemblies would be elected. It did not state what powers they would have, how they would be financed, or even how many members would sit in them. This was all left for future legislation.

For the past year, President Filipe Nyusi has been calling for reflection on the viability of holding district elections - much to the fury of the opposition parties who argue that, since the 2024 district elections are written into the Constitution, they must be held.

The Commission, known by the acronym CRED, was set up to advise the government on the district elections. Right from the start, the main opposition parties, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), denounced CRED as illegitimate and refused to have anything to do with it.

CRED was to consist of "cadres with recognised competence and experience in local government and public finance", but its membership has never been publicly announced. With the opposition boycotting CRED, politically the Commission is dominated by the ruling Frelimo Party.

On 28 April, the coordinator of CRED, Justice Minister Helena Kida, presented the Commission's report which concludes that Mozambique does not meet the necessary conditions to advance with district elections next year. She said this conclusion was reached after public consultations across the entire country over the previous two weeks.

The Minister said that the model of decentralised provincial governance is not yet duly consolidated "because of the complexity of the process itself and the general context, characterised by the crisis provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic, by extreme climatic events, and by terrorism in Cabo Delgado province".

Mozambique, she added, "does not have sufficient resources to guarantee the expansion of the decentralisation model to the districts".

Among CRED's recommendations is a further amendment to the Constitution. The exact nature of the constitutional amendment is not yet clear, but CRED is recommending that the mention of district elections should remain in the Constitution but without any time frame.

CRED also recommends the deepening of dialogue with the opposition forces in order to seek consensus on the lack of the necessary condition for district elections.

Renamo made it clear that there could be no consensus. Renamo spokesperson Venancio Mondlane told a press conference on 28 April that CRED is "unconstitutional", and so Renamo does not recognise its results. "District elections are a constitutional imperative", he declared. As for claims the country does not have the money to embark on district elections, he suggested that foreign donors will pay. "Since 1994, there has been no election in Mozambique, either general or municipal, which the state could finance out of the state budget. All the elections we held in Mozambique were supported by the international community".

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