Maputo, 23 Oct (AIM) - The deadlock on Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) on the eligibility of candidates for the forthcoming elections was broken late on Wednesday, with the acceptance of all candidates from the main opposition force, the Renamo-Electoral Union.
At a Thursday press conference, the CNE chairperson, Rev Arao Litsuri, announced that, after days of analysing the nomination papers, the CNE had only excluded eight of the 96 candidates for positions of mayor. The eight excluded come from four minor parties and groups.
Thus the CNE had accepted as valid the nominations of the other 88, including all 33 Renamo mayoral candidates.
Several of the journalists found Litsuri's announcement incredible: for earlier this week, sources close to the CNE told reporters that the Renamo candidate for mayor of Maputo, Artur Vilanculos, did not have enough supporting signatures.
Every candidate must present a list of supporters amounting to at least one per cent of the municipal electorate. But, with no time left to gather more signatures, Vilanculos was still some 400 signatures short.
So how was it that a candidate who did not have enough signatures two days ago, was now declared valid by Litsuri? But he refused to deal specifically with Vilanculos, and merely claimed that all candidates, bar the excluded eight, had managed to correct the irregularities in their papers within the five day deadline set by the electoral law (in the case of the Renamo candidates this deadline should have expired on 15 October).
An outraged reporter from the daily paper "Noticias" came close to accusing Litsuri of concealing the truth. "We want to know what really happened", he exclaimed. Had some deal been stitched up? Litsuri declined to give any details of the discussions, and insisted that the 88 candidates accepted had complied with the terms of the electoral law "in the understanding of the National Elections Commission".
So had the CNE really worked day after day, sometimes deep into the night, merely to deal with half a dozen candidates from small and obscure groupings?, AIM asked.
"No, we analysed all 96 candidates", replied Litsuri.
No votes had been taken. The decisions on the validity or otherwise of the candidates had all been consensual, he said. "So far, the CNE has not voted on anything at all", added Litsuri.
Consensual decisions, nomination papers legal "in the understanding of the CNE" - such formulations merely strengthened suspicions that a deal had been struck in order to keep Renamo on board for the local elections.
There is one way of clearing the matter up once and for all - the CNE could show all Artur Vilanculos' nomination papers to the press. Reporters could then do their own verification.
AIM made this suggestion. Litsuri said he had no mandate to authorise any such media access, and that the matter would have to be taken up with the full CNE.
Litsuri said the full list of candidates, for mayors and for municipal assemblies, will be posted in the offices of STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) on Friday - four days beyond the legal deadline of 20 October.
Nonetheless, he was confident that the municipal elections can still be held on 19 November. The company that will print the ballot papers has already been chosen, and Litsuri was sure the ballot papers and other electoral materials can be delivered to the municipalities by polling day.
The mayoral candidates excluded are from the Social-Liberal Party (SOL), for Maputo, Nampula and Metangula municipalities, from the Democratic Party for National Reconciliation (PAMOMO), for Nampula and Mozambique Island, from the Labour Party (PT), for Nampula, and from IPADE (Institute for Peace and Democracy) for Tete and Moatize.
Senior figures in the ruling Frelimo Party seemed to be pushing for the exclusion of Vilanculos up until Wednesday. The Frelimo Central Committee Secretary for Mobilisation and Propaganda, Edson Macuacua, told reporters then that Renamo was committing fraud.
He pointed to the fraudulent nature of many of Vilanculos' signatures. There were cases of people who had signed two or more times for Vilanculos, and signatures of people who did not even live in the Maputo municipality.
"Renamo, which accuses Frelimo of fraud, is in reality the only party that is committing fraud", he said.
He said that Frelimo wanted the CNE to announce the list of those candidates who really did meet the requirements laid down in the electoral law.
Maputo, 23 Oct (AIM) - Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) on Thursday drew lots, in the premises of the country's lottery company, for the positions candidates will occupy on the ballot papers for the 19 November municipal elections.
The result is that, on all ballot papers, for both mayors and municipal assemblies, the ruling Frelimo Party will be at the top, and the main opposition force, the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition will be in second position.
Candidates from minor parties and from independent groups of citizens will occupy positions three and downwards.
Frelimo and Renamo are the only forces standing candidates in all 33 municipalities.
IPADE (Institute for Peace and Democracy), the NGO set up by Raul Domingos, the former head of the Renamo parliamentary group, who was expelled from Renamo in 2000, is standing mayoral candidates in five municipalities, and slates for the municipal assemblies in two. Best known of these is the IPADE candidate for mayor of Maputo, jurist Carlos Jeque, who stood as an independent in the presidential election of 1994.
The Independent Party of Mozambique (PIMO), which is a thinly disguised islamic party, is running just one mayoral candidate (in Beira), and seven lists for municipal assemblies.
The Labour Party (PT) is running for eight municipal assemblies, the Ecologist Party for four, the Social-Liberal Party (SOL) for two and the Green Party for one. The previously unheard-of Union for Change (UM) is running just one candidate, for mayor of the central town of Gurue.
Various independent groups of citizens are running candidates: there are eight independent mayoral candidates, but only four independent slates for the municipal assemblies.
There is one problem with the lists of candidates given to the press on Thursday: there are only 81 mayoral candidates, yet according to CNE chairperson Arao Litsuri, there should be 88. Litsuri told reporters that 96 candidates had submitted nomination papers, of which eight were rejected.
A source in STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) said that the discrepancy was because seven candidates were eliminated in September. Their nomination papers had irregularities so gross that they could not be corrected. 56 candidates (including all the Renamo ones) had lesser irregularities in their papers, and were given five days to correct them: the eight rejected this week failed to clear this hurdle.
The municipality with the largest number of candidates is Maputo. Clear favourite to become the next mayor is the Frelimo candidate Eneas Comiche, who is currently a senior Frelimo parliamentarian, and a member of the board of the country's largest bank, BIM.
He faces four other candidates - Artur Vilanculos of Renamo, Carlos Jeque of IPADE, and two independents, Philippe Gagnaux and Pedro Loforte. Gagnaux heads "Juntos pela Cidade" (JPC - Together for the City), which is the current opposition in the Maputo Municipal Assembly.
But in 21 of the 33 municipalities, the choice for mayor will be a straight fight between Frelimo and Renamo.
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