Maputo, 20 Nov (AIM) – Mozambique’s National Elections Commission (CNE) on Friday made the outrageous claim that it is not obliged to check polling station results sheets (editais).
Clearly the Constitutional Council, the country’s highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, does not agree. For on 15 November the Council demanded that the CNE produce the polling station minutes and results sheets from the 11 October municipal elections in ten of the country’s municipalities.
The note from the Council ordered the CNE to hand over the editais within 24 hours – that is, by Thursday afternoon. But the CNE failed to comply, and asked for an extra 48 hours to hand over the results sheets.
But the CNE failed to provide a single edital. On Thursday, the CNE chairperson, Anglican Bishop Carlos Matsinhe, admitted that the CNE does not have the editais. This admission proves what had been suspected all along – that, far from checking the results, the CNE simply rubber-stamped the results sent by the District Election Commissions (CDEs), despite the accusations of fraud levelled against the CDEs.
In an attempt to justify the absence of editais, the CNE sent a “note of clarification” to the weekly paper “Savana”, claiming that ‘For the purposes of the central tabulation of the results of municipal elections, the law is clear in dispensing with the editais and minutes of the polling station (which are kept by the District Elections Commission), while using the intermediate tabulation, made by district, for the purposes of the general tabulation.’
In fact, the law says ‘The presiding officer of each polling station shall immediately communicate the information contained in the edital” to the CNE, and the law also requires the CNE to ‘verify’ the numbers.
A reasonable interpretation is that all the polling station editais should have been sent, via the districts and provinces, to the CNE.
And this is what the CNE did in the past, to the point of adulterating the editais.
The Bulletin on the municipal elections issued by the anti-corruption NGO, the Public Integrity Centre (CIP), pointed out that, in the 2018 local elections the CNE changed the District Elections Commission (CDE) count in two municipalities.
In Marromeu the CNE added 748 votes for the ruling Frelimo Party which gave Frelimo a victory of 46 votes. In Chimoio it took 120 votes away from the main opposition party, Renamo, which made no change in the narrow Frelimo victory.
Despite all the CNE’s claims about “transparency”, these changes were secret and not announced, and only discovered when CIP compared district and national results documents.
Indeed, the law says ‘Observers of the electoral process have the right to … observe the subsequent operations of the electoral process at all levels, in particular the collection of data, centralisation and tabulation of election results at district, city, provincial and central level.’
But the CNE and, its executive arm, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) have never allowed observers or political party monitors to watch the processing of the data. Change are made in deep secrecy and are never explained.
“This level of secrecy must be unique in an electoral democracy”, remarks CIP. “Mozambique’s elections are controlled by a handful of people acting in secret, with total freedom to change the results, and with no openness or transparency”.