Mozambique: Expectations toward the '09 elections

Mozambicans are in the midst of another electoral process and its main contenders are the parties of FRELIMO – currently in power, RENAMO – the oldest opposition party and MDM – the newest opposition party; those parties are “chasing after” the votes. For the first time, the country simultaneously hosts presidential, legislative and provincial parliament elections, the latter are the first in the history of Mozambique. Many people were looking forward this moment, such as blogger José from Debates e Devaneios blog [pt]:

Várias vezes me interroguei se vale a pena participar neste processo e se o meu voto não me torna conivente com uma farsa. Mas, apesar de tudo, acredito que neste caso a abstenção só vai beneficiar o Partido no poder e junto a minha voz aos que apelam ao voto.
Se não houver contrariedade de última hora, amanhã, mesmo não sendo feriado para mim, farei uma longa viagem para depositar o meu voto.

Many times I questioned if it would be worth it to take part in this process and if my vote would make me complicit in a lie. But, all in all, I believe in this case abstention would only benefit the Party that is currently in power and I raise my voice alongside those who appeal for votes.
If there are no last minute obstacles, tomorrow, even if it is not a holiday for me, I will make a long trip to cast my vote.

After a 45-days-long electoral campaign, characterized by gestures of violence, in most cases by militants of FRELIMO, few hours from the vote, the voices of the civil society multiply, calling for an organized election, without violence. Good judgment is called for from the candidates so that they can accept the results from ballot box as a demonstration of the people's will. The call of the civil society extends to the press, especially the publicly-owned media, asking for impartiality in their coverage of the event.

The director of the Technical Secretary of Electoral Administration-TSEA, Felisberto Naife, came public to vouch for the conditions of the voting process in Mozambique as well as in 7 other countries, 5 of them in Africa and 2 in Europe: Portugal and Germany. But not all the countries will allow expatriates the right to vote. The blog Comunidade Moçambicana highlights the case of Malawi [pt]:

O governo do Malawi não autorizou os moçambicanos a votarem excepto nos consulados e embaixadas, de acordo com Felizberto Naife numa conferência de imprensa do STAE, esta manhã. A CNE pretendia que os moçambicanos no Malawi pudessem votar em cinco diferentes locais, mas o Malawi não o permitiu. É o único país que proibe votação fora de embaixadas e consulados.
Entretanto, Naife disse também que o STAE não conseguiu utilizar um helicóptero na província do Niassa devido a falta de combustível. Isto pode causar alguns problemas para fazer chegar materiais de votação às assembleias de voto mais remotas.

The government of Malawi did not authorize Mozambicans to vote, except in the consulates and embassies, according to Felizberto Naife in a press conference of TSEA this morning. The CNE's intentions were to allow Mozambicans to vote from five difference places, but Malawi did not allow this. It is the only country that prohibits voting from outside embassies and consulates.
However, Naife said as well that the TSEA did not succeed in using a helicopter in the province of Niassa due to lack of fuel. This could cause some problems to deliver the voting materials to the most distant voting places.

Nevertheless, despite the reassuring speech of the TSEA director, close to the voting day, the mass media reported that there are regions with no fuel to supply the helicopters in charge of distributing materials to the voting areas where access by road is difficult. This is the case of the province of Niassa, in which a helicopter had to be diverted to the province of Nampula, due to lack of fuel.

The director of TSEA, without explaining the reason of lack of fuel in those places, minimizes the impact of the aerial operations, stating that helicopters were placed in areas in which the electoral process had already been scheduled in accordance with the means currently available. Without further explanations, the director guaranteed the materials’ arrival in all voting places.

Imagem trazida pelo blogueiro José, no blog Debates e Devaneios.

Image from the blog Debates e Devaneios.

In Nampula, province with one of the biggest electorates of the country, a journalist from STV, a private TV News channel of Mozambique, as what he described as a “strange phenomena”, reporting yesterday afternoon that around one thousand people were accredited as electoral observers, by an organization with no competence to do so, the Mozambican Forum of Electoral Observation, and most of them were affiliated to FRELIMO.

According to the reporter, such observers were taken by state cars to different corners of the province; when the reporter asked the electoral bodies, namely the TSEA and the National Commission of Elections, they claimed not to know anything about the accreditation process, having heard of it only because of the reporter and that they would start an inquiry of this case.

This issue not only raises suspicions about potential fraud, that often “flavor” the Mozambican electoral processes and are rejected by the ruling party, but it also highlights the abusive use of the state's resources by FRELIMO, in a very documented and amplified way, as remarked by Álvaro Teixeira:

Amanhã, dia 28/10, é um dia muito especial para um belo país chamado Moçambique e para essa terra da boa gente que é o Povo Moçambicano. É dia de Eleições, um dia que deveria ser natural numa democracia consolidada e amadurecida, mas sobre o qual recaem as maiores suspeitas de ilegalidades cometidas pelo partido no poder, a FRELIMO, que controla todos os organismos que deveriam ser independentes, como a CNE e o CC, a seu bel-prazer, conseguindo perverter o conceito de democracia que é a inclusão, transformando-o em exclusão.

Tomorrow, 28 October, is a very special day for a beautiful country called Mozambique and for this land of good people, the Mozambican People. It is the day of elections, one day that should be natural in a consolidated and mature democracy, but in which arise evidence of suspected illegalities commited by the ruling party, FRELIMO, that controls at will all the organizations that should be independent, like CNE and CC, corrupting the concept of democracy from inclusion to exclusion.

This way, despite the reassuring speeches of electoral organizations and despite all the conditions for the vote, there are important aspects that concern many Mozambicans, such as the existence of areas where elections will not be held because of lack of material; what happens will legitimate the voices of some opposition parties that have been accusing the ruling party of conspiracy with the TSEA to prepare a fraud. There are, at the moment, a total of 2073 observers, 1543 of which are Mozambicans and 530 from other countries. 922 journalists were registered, 42 of them foreigners.

In addition to the national and international oversight and the support of media to bring impartiality to the electoral process, the citizens of Mozambique have the project Verdade-Eleições2009 [pt] which uses the Ushahidi platform to monitor reports, events and discussions on the electoral process throughout the nation. The website, which works as an aggregator of citizen media, allowed the political engagement of Mozambicans by the use of blogs, Twitter, news feeds, reports and headlines, all of which also by the use of SMS.

This article was translated by Diego Casaes and proofread by Janet Gunter.


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