Mozambque: Frelimo wants to take political parties out of the CNE

The leadership of Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo Party is now in favour of a small National Elections Commission (CNE), with none of its members appointed by political parties.

Speaking on Thursday evening at a seminar on the revision of the electoral legislation, organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development Studies (CEDE), Alfredo Gamito, chairperson of the parliamentary Commission on Public Administration, said that the Frelimo Political Commission had taken this position against the wishes of the Frelimo parliamentary group.

The Frelimo group had stuck with the existing composition of the CNE – which is 13 members, five appointed by the political parties represented in parliament in proportion to the number of seats they hold (which means three appointed by Frelimo and two by the main opposition party, Renamo), and eight from civil society organisations.

Gamito said the Frelimo parliamentarians believed the existing system for appointing the CNE should be “consolidated”. However, the Political Commission has now accepted the view of most national and international observer groups that the CNE should be small and depoliticized.

The party leadership, Gamito said, had stressed the need for “professionalism” at the CNE. It had not specified any particular way of appointing the CNE – merely that it should consist of seven members, none of whom should not be appointed by political parties.

This would also mean removing the political parties from the provincial and district elections commissions – if these bodies continue to exist. The Frelimo parliamentary group had wanted to continue the current system, in which these commissions have 11 members, three from Frelimo, two from Renamo and six from civil society.

Gamito openly admitted that this was solely to accommodate Renamo. With smaller commissions, the mathematics would only give Renamo one member. There are also certain privileges that go with Commission membership – official cars in the case of the provincial commissions, and motorcycles for the district commissions.

This is not the first time Frelimo has proposed to remove the political parties from the CNE. This was Frelimo’s position in early 2006, on the ad-hoc committee that was drafting new legislation then. Renamo rejected the proposal out of hand, and Frelimo retreated to the current model.

While Frelimo is prepared to depoliticize the CNE, Renamo is not. Renamo’s initial position was for a CNE of 21 members, five appointed by Frelimo, five by Renamo, five by the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), three by extra-parliamentary parties, and three by civil society. Political parties would thus appoint 86 per cent of the CNE.

Gamito said that in discussions earlier this year between the Frelimo, Renamo and MDM parliamentary leaderships, Renamo’s only concession was to accept a somewhat smaller CNE. First it proposed 17 members, then 15 and suggested that “maybe” 13 might be acceptable.

But Renamo insisted not only on the political parties dominating the CNE but on what it calls “parity”. Its proposed 15 member commission would have four members appointed by Frelimo, four by Renamo, four by the MDM, and three by civil society (including the chairperson).

AS for the MDM, it too wants a seven member CNE – but unlike Frelimo, it wants the majority to come from political parties (one each from Frelimo, Renamo, the MDM and the extra-parliamentary parties).

After a series of national and regional seminars, CEDE too has proposed a seven member, non-political CNE. It suggests that the chairperson of the CNE should be a Supreme Court judge chosen by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature (CSMJ), the regulatory body for judges.

The other six members, CEDE proposes, “should be chosen from among a group of candidates proposed by a platform of civil society organisations, without the intervention of the political parties”.

Alternatively, people wishing to be on the CNE could submit individual applications to a panel of “suitable personalities” indicated by parliament. That panel would make the final choice.

As for the provincial and district election commissions, CEDE recommended that before deciding on the size of these bodies, their tasks and nature should be clearly defined. Some voices argue that these commissions are superfluous, since they do nothing that cannot be done by the local branches of the executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).

Post published in: Africa News

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