October 24, 2003

MOÇAMBIQUE: Local election deadlock broken with concessions to Renamo

Local elections will go ahead as planned on 19 November after Frelimo gave in to Renamo demands and broke a four-day deadlock on the National Election Commission (CNE). The decision will be controversial as Renamo was given special treatment not available to other parties.

The CNE announced on Thursday, Oct 23, that it had accepted as valid all the 33 candidates for mayor (municipal president) from Frelimo and Renamo plus 15 independent and small party candidates. There will be more than two candidates in 12 municipalities and only Frelimo and Renamo in 21. Frelimo and Renamo also had candidates lists approved for all 33 municipal assemblies; 29 small party and independent lists were also approved. The Labour Party (PT), which already holds seats on two assemblies, will stand in eight towns in this election.

The deadlock occurred, according to press reports, when Renamo did not present the necessary signatures from one per cent of voters for its Maputo mayoral candidate Artur Vilanculos. Renamo had already been given extra time to find the signatures. The law specifies that parties are to be given five days to correct any errors in papers submitted, but the CNE had already allowed Renamo (but not other parties) to have its officials in Maputo go through the papers submitted by local offices, which should have allowed party officials to catch the problem. Then Renamo had its five official days, but still could not find enough signatures to back the candidature of the obscure Vilanculos. By law, he should have been rejected, but Renamo demanded a “political” solution and his approval.

Although majority votes are permitted, CNE chair Arao Litsuri has consistently worked by consensus, as Renamo has demanded. In this case, for four days Frelimo members held out for the law to be followed, but finally on Wednesday it conceded a political solution, and Vilanculos was approved.

Only Frelimo and Renamo are represented on the CNE and Renamo did not allow any such political solution for those not on the CNE. Fifteen mayoral candidates were rejected, including candidates from IPADE in Tete and Moatize. IPADE is the organisation of Raul Domingos, who was expelled from Renamo and who represents the biggest threat to Renamo in the centre of the country. In both Tete and Moatize, Frelimo had small majorities in the 1999 elections, so Renamo has a possibility of winning; if IPADE had been allowed to stand, it could have taken enough votes from Renamo to have made a difference. It would seem that IPADE might have a potential legal challenge to the election, on the ground that it was not given the same opportunity to correct its nomination papers as was Renamo.

Any challenge to the electoral process will be heard by the new Constitutional Council, which has just been created. Chair will be the respected lawyer and former minister Rui Baltazar. Frelimo has named parliament member and former minister Teodato Hunguana and the director of the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane law faculty Lucia Ribeiro. Renamo has named the well known lawyer Orlando da Graca. One member is still to be chosen.


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