Constitutional Council Rejects Renamo Appeal

Maputo — Mozambique's Constitutional Council, the body that has the final word in electoral disputes, has rejected the appeal against the results of the 28 October general and provincial elections submitted by the country's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo.

The rejection was a unanimous decision of the seven judges on the council - including the two appointed by Renamo (Manuel Franque and Orlando da Graca). Although dated 30 November, the Council ruling only appeared n its website on Monday.

Renamo had demanded that the elections, won overwhelmingly by the ruling Frelimo Party, be annulled, but the Council pointed out that, according to the law, annulment must be made on a case by case basis, polling station by polling station.

The electoral law states that voting in any polling station "is only considered null and void when irregularities have occurred that can substantially influence the result of the election". If a decision is taken to annul the vote in one or more polling stations, then the election is repeated in those stations on the Sunday following the decision.

So Renamo needed to bring to the Constitutional Council, not a general condemnation of the elections, but a request to annul the vote at specific polling stations, explaining in each case what irregularities had occurred.

The Renamo appeal was supposedly against the decision of the National Elections Commission (CNE) announcing the results - but in fact much of the documentation submitted by Renamo referred to previous phases in the voting and the count, and the Council pointed out that it is useless to bring such appeals days or weeks after the event has happened.

For complaints of polling station irregularities must be made in the first instance at the polling station itself. According to CNE chairperson Joao Leopoldo da Costa, when he announced the results on 11 November, no such complaints were received.

Renamo states that its polling station monitors did attempt to complain but the polling station staff illegally refused to accept the complaints. Some international observers say that they witnessed such refusals. Renamo had 48 hours to protest this - which it could have done at the district elections commission, or even by phoning the CNE itself. There is no record of any such protest.

In half a dozen cases, however, observers from the European Union saw the polling station staff dutifully writing down the Renamo complaints. But if Costa is to be believed, the staff just threw the complaints away afterwards, and they never made it to the CNE.

The Renamo complaint ranges far and wide, and some of the accusations it makes are certainly true. Thus the Chairpersons of a few District Elections Commissions threw out the two commission members appointed by Renamo from the district count. From sources in the CNE, AIM knows that this is true, and in some cases the CNE intervened to restore the Renamo members' rights.

But some of the Renamo allegations are frivolous. Renamo alleges "lack of transparency" in the "requalification" of the votes declared invalid at the polling stations, because this work was done, not by members of the CNE, but by its executive body STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat).

"Requalification" involves looking at every supposedly invalid vote and deciding whether the voter has indeed shown a preference. This painstaking process, which lasted for four days, led to the rescuing of 12 per cent of these votes.

The requalification was entirely transparent. Any accredited political party monitor, observer or journalist could watch. AIM spent several hours in the requalification rooms - and throughout this period no delegates from Renamo or from any other political parties were present.

There were several hundred thousand invalid votes to be checked - an impossible task for the 13 members of the CNE to do on their own. So they were assisted by members of STAE and of the Maputo City and Provincial Elections Commissions. The Constitutional Council saw nothing illegal in this.

Renamo also claimed that the fraudulent annulment of votes had cost it eight deputies - two in Nampula and Zambezia provinces, and one each in Cabo Delgado, Tete, Sofala and Manica.

It is certainly true that in an alarmingly large number of polling stations (over six per cent of the total, by AIM's calculations) dishonest staff added ink marks to ballot papers to make it look as if the voters concerned had tried to vote for more than one candidate.

But it was not just Renamo and its presidential candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, who suffered from this. Votes cast for the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) and its leader, Daviz Simango, were also tampered with. In the requalification room, AIM saw signs that a few votes intended for Frelimo had been invalidated.

The mathematics whereby Renamo calculates that it has lost eight deputies were not explained. The Constitutional Council said that Renamo seemed to assume that all the votes declared invalid were in fact intended for it, when in reality all candidates were affected.

Had Renamo bothered to watch the requalification it would have seen that only a minority of the votes declared invalid had been tampered with at the polling stations. Most really were invalid, with voters, in clearly the same hand, putting crosses beside two or more candidates or parties, or placing their cross in between two candidates, or scrawling words of praise or insult across the ballot paper.

The most damning items of evidence submitted by Renamo were nine ballot papers which one of its polling station monitors in the northern district of Mozambique Island seized from a voter before she was able to stuff them into the ballot boxes. But Renamo failed to bring this flagrant instance of fraud immediately to the attention of the electoral bodies.

But this does not justify the cynical comment made by the CNE in its response to the Renamo appeal. The CNE told the Constitutional Council "it is not explained how the appellants (Renamo) are including several ballot papers, bearing in mind that these leave STAE in sealed kits which are only opened at the polling station, and are deposited in the ballot boxes after being used by the voters".

The CNE, however, knows perfectly well, from the Mozambican press, that those ballot papers were apprehended by a Renamo monitor in the illicit possession of a voter. The incident shows that the election security procedures are not as tamper-proof as the CNE imagines.

The CNE had an easy way of checking those ballot papers - for each paper has a serial number, and that would have told the CNE exactly which batch of papers they had come from, and where the security breach had occurred. Apparently the CNE was not interested in running such a basic check. (All Africa)


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