Maputo — Mozambique's largest opposition party, Renamo, is demanding the annulment of the voter registration that ended at midnight last Saturday.
The registration ran from 20 April to 3 June in all of the country's 65 municipalities, ahead of the municipal elections scheduled for 11 October.
Renamo also wants an audit of the registration to assess the scale of the various irregularities and illegalities that took place.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference on Tuesday, Renamo national spokesperson Jose Manteigas accused the district directors of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the members of the registration brigades, and agents of the Mozambican police (PRM) of "doing everything to manipulate the voter registration, and becoming involved in criminal activities'.
Manteigas said that STAE had deliberately set up fewer registration posts in areas of the greatest Renamo influence, compared with similarly sized areas in the rest of the country. The purpose, he claimed, was to register fewer voters in areas of Renamo support in the north and centre of the country.
Renamo, he continued, thought it was "criminal' that the authorities had refused to extend the registration beyond Saturday, even though thousands of potential voters formed long queues at the registration posts, with some staying overnight at the posts in attempts to ensure that they could register.
"All these manoeuvres to manipulate the voter registration have seriously endangered the fundamental right of citizens to voter and to be elected', Manteigas accused.
"The serious irregularities which, since the start, have affected this registration', he continued, "do not guarantee free, fair and transparent elections, much less a peaceful post-election environment'.
Annulling the registration, he warned, was the only way to prevent the elections from being marred by violence. So Renamo wanted new registration that would be "impartial and free of manipulation'. But he did not say when a new voter registration could be held without compromising the rest of the electoral timetable.
He added that Renamo had protested, officially and in good time, against all the irregularities in the registration. "We submitted complaints to the relevant authorities, and we appealed to the National Elections Commission (CNE)', he said. But so far there had been no response from the decision making bodies.
Manteigas accused the ruling Frelimo Party of masterminding the irregularities. "We haven't heard from other actors (i.e. from Frelimo) condemnations of these acts that damage the democratic rule of law in Mozambique', he said.
The preliminary figures from STAE indicate that 8,387,583 voters were registered in the 65 municipalities, which is 84.91 per cent of the target, based on projections made by the National Statistics Institute (INE). But, given the very serious accusations made against STAE, all figures issued by STAE need to be regarded with a certain degree of skepticism.
Renamo has a very long history of denouncing the electoral management bodies, and of accusing Frelimo of committing electoral fraud. It may thus be tempting to dismiss the claims made by Manteigas as just another example of Renamo sour grapes.
But this time it is different, since it is not just opposition political parties that have accused the electoral bodies of illegal behaviour. Observers, notably from the civil society consortium "Mais Integridade' ("More Integrity') closely followed the registration, and the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), issued bulletins on the registration at the rate of more than one a day.
They detected anomalies, and even crimes, that corroborate much of what Manteigas said. So flagrant were some of the abuses that the CNE occasionally felt obliged to act.
The most notorious case was the CNE's suspension of the STAE district director in Beira, Nelson do Rosario, who set up a WhatsApp group that mobilized registration post supervisors in support of Frelimo and against the opposition parties. Contributors to this group boasted of deliberately slowing down registration when they believed that the people in the queue were opposition supporters, and even wrote of "liberating' Beira (a reference to the fact that Beira Municipal Council is currently run by the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM).