July 27, 2007

New date for provincial elections disputed

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has postponed the first elections for provincial assemblies from 20 December to 16 January. Guebuza made this change on a proposal from the National Elections Commission (CNE), despite CNE spokesperson Juvenal Bucuane telling the daily paper "Noticias" had noted that the CNE had received no formal request to change the date. It was pressure from the country's large Moslem community that led to the change. Moslem leaders pointed out that 20 December coincides with Eid al-Adha, one of the moist sacred dates in the Islamic calendar.
Even so, the timetable remains extremely tight. For example, the candidates for these elections are supposed to be announced 90 days before polling day which is 17 October. However, voter registration does not end until 18 October, and it is on the basis of that registration that the electoral bodies will know how many voters are in each province, and hence how many seats there will be in each provincial assembly and how many candidates’ parties should propose. But the greatest objection to 16 January is climatic. The date is deep within the Mozambican rainy season. On 16 January 2007, it was raining torrentially in central Mozambique, and parts of the Zambezi valley were under water.
Both the ruling Frelimo Party and the main opposition party Renamo have insisted that the elections must be held in strict compliance with the Constitution. An alternative, however, would be to amend the Constitution. Frelimo General Secretary Filipe Paunde claimed that to postpone the elections further would be "to amputate democracy". He argued that, since Mozambique was under the rule of law, the Constitution had to be respected. "We must be consistent", he declared. Elections within the constitutional deadline were "a legal and democratic imperative", and would "contribute to the consolidation of democracy". (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)


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