September 10, 2002

Dissension on Electoral Laws

Mozambique's two main political parties have been unable to agree on changes to electoral laws ahead of legislative elections due next year. For over two years a parliamentary ad-hoc commission has worked on the laws. But it has been unable to achieve consensus on how the body that supervises the elections - the National Elections Commission (NEC) - should take decisions, the Mozambique News Agency reported.

Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement RENAMO, on Tuesday, September 10, demanded that there should be no discussion of electoral legislation in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, until consensus on the matter has been achieved. Speaking at the opening session of an extraordinary sitting of the Assembly, the head of the RENAMO parliamentary group, Ossofo Quitine, declared "The electoral legislation is for the benefit of all of Mozambican society. So it must be accepted by everyone. It must be approved by consensus".

RENAMO has consistently demanded a veto over CNE decisions. The mechanism for this is that a two thirds majority should be necessary for any decision on the CNE. The ruling FRELIMO Party rejects this, and says that a simple majority should be sufficient.

Since neither side has shifted its position significantly in over two years, the only solution is to put the issue to a vote in the Assembly plenary. Yet RENAMO rejects this, it insists that the legislation not be debated at all. FRELIMO, however, insists that decisions on the electoral laws must be reached at this sitting. The deputy head of the FRELIMO group, Margarida Talapa, stressed that, since the ad-hoc commission had been unable to reach consensus in 26 months, the Plenary "will have to take the decisions it considers pertinent, including the plenary itself discussing those points on which there are still differences inside the commission. Revising the electoral legislation cannot go on indefinitely", she stressed. "It must be clear to everyone that the electoral timetable is not negotiable".

Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said it was ready to assist in the running of the elections, but was awaiting a request from the government.

UNDP Assistant Resident Representative Henny Matos said that UNDP had been "expecting a request for some time". "We have said to the Mozambican authorities that we are ready to assist whenever we get a request. A lot of hardware has already been brought in, and it will very much depend on their request [what the UN contribution would be]. I would guess that we could do something on the training side, and some support on the planning. I think we should get something [from government] fairly soon, as elections are going to happen mid-next year," Matos said. (AGENCIA DE INFORMACAO DE MOCAMBIQUE / IRIN)

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