DHLAKAMA WANTS CONSTITUTION AMENDED BY END OF FEBRUARY

Maputo – Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Mozambican rebel movement Renamo, has issued a deadline of February next year for the constitutional amendment and ancillary legislation necessary for the election of provincial governors to be passed by the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

 Interviewed by the independent television station STV, and its sister publication, the daily paper “O Pais”, Dhlakama said that in his meeting with President Filipe Nyusi on 6 August, the two had agreed that the proposals on decentralisation should enter the assembly this year, and be approved, if not this year, then by February at the latest.

 This would allow Nyusi to announce the exact date for the 2019 general elections, including the election of provincial governors, within the legal timetable (at least 18 months in advance).

The Constitution currently stipulates that the President appoints the provincial governors. When the assembly approved the Constitution, in 2004, Renamo voted in favour.

It has now changed its mind, and wants the governors to be elected, which will require a constitutional amendment. As far as is publicly known, the text of such an amendment does not yet exist.

“What is important for me is not that the proposal be approved this year,” Dhlakama told STV.

“What is most important is that the documents enter the Assembly this year, so that by the end of February we have the Constitution amended and a law on the election of provincial governors approved”.

 One way of electing the governors would be to allow the provincial assemblies to elect them. Thus the voters would elect the provincial assembly, and the assembly members would choose one of their number (most likely the head of the list of the party with most seats) to become governor. This method of election is favoured by the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

 However, Dhlakama rejected it.

“I think a governor should not be elected through a provincial assembly,” he told STV, “in the same way that the President of the Republic is not elected by the Assembly of the Republic, but by direct popular vote.”

He admitted, however, that this is up for negotiation. One serious practical difficulty is that general elections already involve three ballot papers — for the President, for parliament, and for the provincial assembly.

Dhlakama is now proposing a fourth ballot paper, for the provincial governor, which will add to the burden that already falls on the shoulders of the polling station staff.

The polling stations should open at 7am and the staff must arrive a couple of hours in advance to set everything up. After the close of polls (at 6pm, or whenever the last voter in the queue has voted) the staff must count the votes, following a set of highly detailed regulations. The count, often under poor lighting conditions, already lasts well into the night. Adding a fourth ballot paper is likely, in much of the country, to prolong the count into the small hours of the following morning, by which time the tired and hungry polling station staff are liable to make many mathematical mistakes as they fill out the results forms.

Two working groups set up between the government and Renamo have been working on the decentralisation documents and on military matters for many months. They have kept their proceedings away from the media, but there is no indication that they have yet reached consensus.

 The next parliamentary sitting begins on 23 October and will end in mid-December. This is a very short time for dealing with complex matters. According to Mateus Katupha, the spokesperson for the Assembly’s governing board, its Standing Commission, so far no proposed legislation at all has been deposited with the Assembly. – AIM.

September 2017
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