Mozambique Elections: CNE tells parties money is on the way - AIM report
Abdul Carimo, CNE chairperson. [File photo: Folha de Maputo]
The chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, has blamed the constant changes in Mozambique’s electoral legislation for the violence and conflicts that have marred the country’s elections.
Speaking in Maputo on Monday, at the launch of the Network for Monitoring, Response to and Mitigation of Electoral Violence and Conflicts, Carimo said it was important to discuss “the instability of the electoral legislation, the permanent changes in the legislation, almost from one electoral cycle to the next, and on the eve of each election, which brings consequences to the process”.
He said the experience of other countries indicates that the legislation supporting elections should not be changed when there is less than a year to go before voting day. But in Mozambique “we have situations when, with only three or four months to go before voting, we still have changes in the legislation”.
He thought this created conditions for challenging the work of the electoral bodies, and for disputing the final election results.
Constant changes in the electoral law, Carimo added, mean that even the political parties end up with less than complete mastery of the legislation. This is worsened by the fact that most parties do not have jurists capable of providing support in interpretation of the law.
The CNE itself, and its executive arm, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), were embarrassed when the laws changed, he said, because articles in the various laws sometimes contradicted each other, notably when it came to fixing deadlines (this is because there are separate laws governing presidential and parliamentary elections, municipal elections, provincial assembly elections, voter registration, and the composition and functions of the CNE itself).
Changes to the legislation were often rush jobs, making it difficult for them to be understood and acted upon. Furthermore, the fact that the main political parties have seats on the CNE and at every level of STAE “creates external pressure on the electoral bodies”.
For the first time, Carimo came out clearly in favour of removing the political parties from the CNE and STAE. “This debate that the electoral bodies should consist 100 per cent of people from civil society has been going on for a long time, but it doesn’t get anywhere because the political parties think they are the owners of the elections, and this has caused confusion inside the electoral bodies”, he said.
The major upheaval in the electoral legislation occurred in February 2014, just a few months from the general elections of October that year. These changes created a much larger and deeply politicised electoral apparatus, and even allowed the three main political parties to appoint members of the polling station staff at each of the 17,000 polling stations. The main opposition party, Renamo, boasted that putting Renamo appointees at every level of the apparatus would eliminate fraud. But when Renamo lost the elections, it still claimed they were fraudulent.
This year, the main changes to the legislation concerned the provincial assemblies, largely because, for the first time, the elections will choose not only the members of the Assembly, but also the provincial governors.
The shifting electoral legislation, while a perfectly real problem, cannot explain all the disputes that have occurred. In particular, the open fraud in at least four municipalities (Marromeu, Moatize, Alto Molocue and Monapo) in last year’s municipal elections, had nothing to do with changes in the laws.
Adriano Nuvunga, of the Centre for Democracy and Development, the body which is promoting the Network for Monitoring, Response to and Mitigation of Electoral Violence and Conflicts, argued at the Monday meeting that election conflicts are at the root of high levels of abstention.
A large number of those who register to vote do not cast their ballots. Nuvunga said that studies of abstention indicate they do not vote because they are afraid of outbursts of violence on voting day.
The new initiative, he added, will be implemented in Maputo, Gaza, Sofala, Manica, Zambezia, Nampula and Cabo Delgado provinces. It will involve a “reconciliation and response committee” formed of representatives of civil society, the police, religious bodies and other social forces.
“We want to create public confidence among people going to the polling stations, particularly women”, said Nuvunga. “We want to ensure that as many people as possible participate, and that violence does not become a factor preventing people from voting”.