Maputo, 23 May (AIM) – Election observers from the “Mais Integridade” (“More Integrity”) coalition of civil society organisations have called on Mozambique’s election management bodies to take tougher measures against illicit behavior during the current voter registration.
In particular, the coalition wants a crackdown against clandestine voter registration taking place at night and outside the official voter registration posts.
In its latest statement, issued on Monday, and summarising the third and fourth week of registration, Mais Integridade calls on the electoral administration to eliminate from the data base any voter who was registered outside the registration posts and outside the normal working hours, “since these are irregular and illicit registrations”.
This would be quite easy. The computers (known as “Mobile IDs”) used in the registration record the date and time of each registration. It would be simple to delete any registration that occurred after the posts should have closed.
Although the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) has made very clear that registration can only take place at the official posts and in normal working hours, the practice of nocturnal, clandestine registration is continuing.
The latest such case was reported from Mamintane, in Mandlakazi municipality, in the southern province of Gaza, where a registration post was found to be operating in the home of a monitor from the ruling Frelimo Party.
STAE has also banned the practice of “priority lists”, whereby certain groups, such as state employees, particularly teachers, jump the queue, pushing to the front, while those who have been waiting for hours are not attended. But the observers found that this is another practice which is continuing.
Thus, in the post at the Filipe Jacinto Nyusi Secondary School, in the central city of Quelimane, the STAE instructions are disregarded, and teachers simply go to the head of the queue, regardless of how long other potential voters have been waiting.
Similar scenes were observed in Marromeu and in Nampula city, where public employees jumped the queues. In a teacher training institute, in the northern city of Pemba, police officers facilitated the registration of their relatives, who did not stay in the queue.
At a post in Mueda, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, observers watched as soldiers ignored the queues and jumped to the front.
At the registration posts, as in all parts of the Mozambican public administration, some categories – such as the elderly, the disabled, and pregnant women – are allowed to go the head of the queues. But the observers found posts where this basic rule was disregarded.
In most cases, observers had free access to the registration posts visited, but there were exceptions in which registration brigade members illegally denied observers access or limited the time they could stay at the posts.
In one post, in a Beira primary school, the head of the brigade declared “observation is not allowed”. In a second Beira school, the head of the brigade said the observers would only be allowed to enter, if accompanied by an official from STAE.
At another Beira post, the observers were told not to ask any questions, and in yet another they were only allowed to observe from outside and for just ten minutes.
At one post in the southern city of Matola, the brigade prevented observation on the grounds that it did not know where the observers were from, although they were duly accredited by STAE.
In Angoche, in Nampula province, the head of one of the brigades threatened to confiscate the observers’ badges, to check their authenticity with the Provincial Elections Commission.
Nonetheless, at the end of the fourth week, the Mais Integridade observers had witnessed the registration of 28,300 voters through 2,200 visits to 850 registration posts in 27 municipalities. This was a 20 per cent coverage of the 4,292 registration posts.
The number of posts which had to suspend their activities because of lack of materials or machine breakdowns was fewer than in the first two weeks, but the observers regarded this still as “higher than acceptable levels”.
In the fourth week, the number of posts that were open, but could not operate, usually due to printer malfunctions, was 19 per cent of all those visited – the same percentage as in the first week, but better than the 26 per cent of the second week.
The average time taken to process one voter was about seven minutes, the same as in previous weeks. But the observers noted one case in which registration took 21 minutes. Many posts had long queues, and potential voters frequently complained at the slowness of the brigades.