Maputo, 20 April (AIM) – Mozambique’s National Elections Commission (CNE) has called for massive participation of all citizens, aged 18 and over, to register in order to vote in the municipal elections that will be held on 11 October.
Speaking on Wednesday, on the eve of the start of voter registration, which will run from 20 April to 3 June, the CNE chairperson, Bishop Carlos Matsinhe, declared “We renew our appeal and urge all potential voters to go, as soon as possible, to the registration posts nearest their homes, to register and ensure the right to elect and be elected”.
Matsinhe invited “all the living forces of society, including civil society organizations, government organizations, and religious denominations, among others, to mobilize the citizens of voting age to register.”
According to Matsinhe, voter registration is the first stage in which the citizen manifests his or her unequivocal willingness to exercise the civic right to elect and be elected.
He warned that people who do not register will not receive a voter card and will not be allowed into the polling stations. “Without the voter card we lose the right to vote and to be elected, without this exercise we are left without direct participation in decisions about local development and rooting the culture of democracy in the country”, he added.
Registration, he said, gives all citizens the opportunity to participate in choosing their representatives, who will guide the destinies of their municipalities, implement and supervise the locally defined programmes for the development of each municipality.
Initial reports were that the great majority of registration posts opened on time on Thursday morning, but the registration went very slowly because the brigades seemed unfamiliar with the computers used.
The Bulletin on the elections issued by the NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), said that in some cases registration took as long as 45 minutes per voter. This was despite the lengthy period of preparations, and the pilot registration exercise in February which were supposed to iron out difficulties.
Even though this was only the first day of registration, in some posts the machines broke down, and the brigades had to wait for STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) to send staff to repair them. In some cases, the machines did not recognise the fingerprints of the brigade members.
Obsession with protocol also contributed to delays. Supposedly “important” people, such as mayors and district administrators, are entitled to register first. But if they, for whatever reason, do not turn up on time, everyone else is forced to wait.
The Bulletin noted that a post in a technical school in Xai-Xai, capital of Gaza province, opened on time, but voters were kept waiting for two hours, until the Mayor of Xai-Xai had registered.
Many journalists and observers had not been issued with credentials, and so could not report on the voter registration. CIP noted that its Bulletin has 200 correspondents spread across all 65 municipalities, but fewer than half have been issued credentials.
“Only Zambézia, Tete, Manica, Inhambane and Niassa have issued credentials”, the Bulletin added. “In some places journalists and observers without credentials have been given access informally, but in many places they have been barred”.
Credentials are issued by provincial elections commissions, “which informally blame the very late purchases of material to print and make the plastic coated credentials with clips. This is turn is blamed on the central government cash crisis; many bills are not being paid and money has been released to the National Elections Commission very slowly”.
“With the very late start, provincial elections commissions are producing credentials for party officials and party poll monitors first, and have not yet reached journalists and observers who are at the bottom of the list”, the Bulletin says.