Maputo, 6 May (AIM) – Mozambique’s second largest opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) has demanded a referendum on whether elections for district assemblies should be held in 2024.
The district elections were included in a package of decentralization measures in the constitutional amendments of 2018. These amendments stated specifically that the first district elections would be held in 2024, but said nothing about the powers of district assemblies, and how they would relate to the existing provincial and municipal assemblies.
As from mid-2022, President Filipe Nyusi has been calling for a rethink on the viability of district elections. The government set up a commission, known as CRED, to carry out nationwide consultations on the matter.
When CRED reported back, it said the condition do not yet exist for holding district elections, and so suggested they be postponed until those conditions were created. The parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party has submitted a draft constitutional amendment to parliament’s governing board, its standing commission, which retains the commitment to elected district assemblies, but removes the reference to 2024.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference on Friday, MDM leader Lutero Simango declared that the public should be consulted about the district elections, and such a consultation should be by a referendum.
“The Mozambican people must decide whether or not they want district elections, and this decision must be taken through a vote”, he said. “The people must be called to a referendum to decide”.
The Constitution does envisage the possibility of a referendum, but no referendum has ever been held in Mozambican history. Simango did not say how much a referendum might cost.
He also accused Frelimo of not consulting the MDM during the CRED consultation. “Right from the start we publicly expressed our willingness to debate this matter, and we always said that this debate would not mean violating the constitutional command”, he said.
“As the MDM, we were never consulted”, he continued. “Not consulting the MDM and other political parties is serious”.
Simango also attacked the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) for the various irregularities that have occurred during the current voter registration – notably the printing of voter cards in places other than the official registration posts.
“There are serious problems, and these are creating a bad political environment and a distrust in the process”, said Simango. “Voter cards cannot be issued outside of the registration posts. What we agreed is that everyone must go to the registration posts to pick up their voter cards”.
He complained that some municipalities have more registration posts than others, citing the southern municipality of Namaacha, which has 53 registration posts to register 34,062 voters. But the central city of Beira has only 66 posts to cover an estimated electorate of 389,093 voters.
“Our message is that they should stop playing with Mozambicans”, Simango said. “Don’t play with us, we’re human beings and we’re not made of iron or steel. Blood runs in our veins, and in these veins there is also a limit to patience”.