Commonwealth says elections not credible, peaceful or transparent

"Given the shadow cast over these elections by the incidents of pre-election violence and the irregularities on polling day, we were unable to conclude that all aspects of the process were credible, peaceful and transparent," said the Commonwealth Election Observer Group in its report issued on 7 May, six months after the 15 October 2019 election.

Commonwealth observer reports are normally anodyne, but this one was unusually strong and critical, in part because Commonwealth and other international observers "were witness to … intimidation and serious incidents of electoral malpractice." Commonwealth "observers witnessed persons with ballot papers outside of polling stations in the Ilha de Mocambique" and another international mission "witnessed the smuggling into polling stations of extra ballot papers" in Nampula.

Inflated registration, particularly in Gaza, was criticised and the Commonwealth observers call for more time and transparency to check the register and for "an independent audit" of the register.

Failure to register civil society observers but registering "observers unknown to the national observer community" was cited. "Commonwealth observers in Zambézia noted the presence of citizen observers in the rural voting districts of Namacurra and Nicoadala with accreditation credentials that appeared to be printed copies of official CNE credentials and cases where no organisation at all was listed on the observer credentials. These observers were reluctant to disclose their host organisation to Commonwealth observers. The Group observed a number of unnamed observer groups securing accreditation by the CPEs in the days [just before] the elections." The Commonwealth cites national observer reports that "unknown citizen observers often voted more than once, gave instructions to polling station staff and attempted to slow down the process."

Some of its harshest criticism was for the electoral management bodies which must be reformed to ensure "that decisions are taken in the interest of the electorate and of the country, and not of one or two political parties only." The observers recognise that an electoral system governed by a whole series of constantly changing pieces of legislation "responds to the outcome of political dialogue between the main parties, Renamo and Frelimo, rather than taking a holistic review of the electoral framework." The electoral system does not create a "level playing field"

Also criticised is the lack of clarity in the law over the hierarchy in electoral bodies. CNE and STAE give the appearance of "two separate management bodies" and "STAE appeared to operate autonomously."

"The central body in Maputo [CNE] has little control over the decentralised commissions". When the CNE tried to press provincial elections commission to register observers, "it appeared instructions from the central structure were unimplemented."  Governance arrangements between CNE and STAE must be reviewed, it says.

There is a call for "implementation of the existing prohibition on the redirecting of public assets for the support of the incumbent." Political parties should following the rules. "The Commonwealth Observer Group witnessed government vehicles transporting Frelimo supporters in Nampula province."

The counting process should be simplified, and "publication of original copies of polling station results for public verification on the CNE website would increase transparency and confidence."

The CNE must give more information to civil society. It must engage with civil society "during the electoral process and provide it with access to information." The CNE should "provide public lists of accredited [observer] organisations to lend transparency to the accreditation process."

CNE in limbo

The term of National Elections Commission (CNE) members expired on 30 April, but parliament did nothing to appoint a new CNE, so the members remain in office.

By law, the term is 6 years, but due to a Renamo boycott, three groups started at different times and thus ended at different times. Frelimo and MDM members and their allied civil society members took office in May 2013, while Renamo and its allied civil society members took office in March and April 2014. In July 2019 parliament extended the mandate of all members to 30 April 2020.

The law states that the members of the CNE only cease functions when new members take office. Parliament has not even scheduled a date to discuss the issue in parliament, so the present members remain in post.

The CNE has 17 members: 5 Frelimo, 4 Renamo, 1 MDM and 7 civil society. (Mozambique Bolletim Process)

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