Maputo — Mozambique's Constitutional Council on Monday sharply criticised the National Elections Commission (CNE) for the way it had handled the procedures leading up to the 28 October general and provincial elections.
In its ruling proclaiming the election results, the Council pointed out that the calendar for the elections drawn up by the CNE "does not indicate with precision and clarity the deadlines for electoral acts, particularly those for the phase of delivering candidates' nomination papers".
In particular, the CNE announced exactly the same period (1 June to 29 July) for both the registration of parties for the parliamentary elections and for the delivery of candidates' nomination papers.
This procedure was in violation of the law, which regards the registration of parties, and the delivery of nomination papers as quite separate.
The law envisages the possibility of appealing to the Constitutional Council against the CNE's decisions on such matters as the legality of political parties' names and symbols. Yet the CNE effectively made this impossible, since the calendar said that the CNE would decide on the legality of names and symbols only after the end of the period for delivery of nomination papers.
This was not an academic issue. There were strong suspicions that one new party, the PLD (Party of Freedom and Development), chose a turkey as its symbol to confuse the electorate, since the main extra-parliamentary force, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) also has a domestic bird, a cockerel, as its symbol.
The most flagrant case was that of the PPD (Popular Democratic Party), a completely obscure group, which obviously chose its name in order to steal votes from the much better known PDD (Party of Peace, Democracy and Development), led by the former number two in Renamo, Raul Domingos.
But the CNE's calendar, described by the Council as "incoherent", made it almost impossible to address such issues.
The CNE also had a legal obligation to publish lists of candidates on three separate occasions - first, immediately after the end of the period for presenting nomination papers (29 July); second, after all the nomination papers had been checked for irregularities (5 September); and finally, after any appeals by parties against the lists had been decided by the Constitutional Council (19 September).
In fact, the CNE only posted one set of lists of candidates on its notice board, on the night of 5/6 September. Even this was incomplete, since it only included the lists that were accepted, and not those that the CNE rejected, although the law states clearly that the rejected lists must also be posted.
The Council pointed out that failure to publish the list of candidates immediately after receiving their nomination papers meant that the parties could not check the lists for any omissions. The parties were thus being denied information they needed for any possible appeal against the CNE to the Council.
The Council also noted that three elections were held, not one. The CNE should therefore have submitted three separate sets of minutes to the Council. Instead, the CNE's decisions on the three elections were bundled together in one document. When the Council asked for separate minutes for the separate elections, all it received were two additional photocopies of the same document.
The electoral bodies, the Council added, needed to explain their decisions better, and always notify parties and candidates of those decisions. It would thus be desirable for the CNE and its subordinate bodies "to develop complementary practical mechanisms which, on the one hand, permit greater publicity for its activities, and on the other improve communication and dialogue with the political parties and candidates".
Such measures were important "to raise the level of trust and credibility that the electoral administration should deserve".
But the Council admitted that the CNE was working with badly drafted laws with overlapping deadlines that were difficult to reconcile with each other. A key problem was that the date for the election must be announced by the President of the Republic (on the CNE's advice) at least 180 days in advance.
The Council said this was not enough time - particularly because updating the voter registration cannot occur until the election date is known (because only people aged 18 before or on the date of the election can vote).
The date for the elections should be fixed further in advance, the Council argued, "so as to allow more time for all the other electoral procedures".
A correct timetable for the elections, it said, "requires parliament to fix more realistic deadlines, which allow a properly phased and harmonised sequence of electoral acts, without overlapping".
The Council also criticized the CNE for demanding residence certificates proving that candidates for the provincial assemblies have lived in the province for at least six months. That demand is not in the law, which only requires that candidates show their identity card and their voter card.
For the voter card number indicates the province where the candidate registered to vote, and where he or she presumably lives. The identity card also shows the candidate's address. A third document is therefore unnecessary.
Opposition parties have repeatedly claimed that local authorities are unwilling to issue residence certificates for their candidates. The failure of opposition candidates to obtain these certificates is the main reason why the ruling Frelimo Party was unopposed in 67 of the 141 district constituencies used for the provincial elections.
Source: Allafrica (2009.12.28)