MDM protests at arrest of polling station monitors

The opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) is protesting that large numbers of its polling station monitors were arrested at the stations during the municipal elections last Wednesday.

MDM spokesperson Sande Carmona, cited by the “Mozambique Political Process Bulletin”, published by AWEPA (Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa) and the Mozambican anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), said the party is still receiving reports of arrested monitors, so has no total yet.

But he specifically cited the town of Dondo, in Sofala province, where he said 22 delegates were arrested on polling day, and 15 were only released on Sunday.

The MDM claims that its delegates were often arrested in polling stations just before the count, which meant the MDM had no one to watch the count and could not receive an official copy of the results sheet.

In Maputo, MDM mayoral candidate Venancio Mondlane said 70 of its monitors had been arrested. Lutero Simango, head of the MDM parliamentary group, said all had now been released.

He showed a release note for Martins Nhampule, a monitor in the George Dimitrov neighbourhood, who had been arrested just before the count on the ground that his credential was not an "original". He was released "for lack of evidence” by a Maputo judge, Dinis Nhavotso.

The police appear to have ignored the limited immunity enjoyed by polling station monitors. The electoral law states that monitors “may not be arrested during the operations of the polling station unless they are caught in the act of committing a crime that can be punished with a prison term longer than two years”.

If the MDM monitors really were detained en masse, those who detained them themselves risk going to jail, since the law states “anyone who prevents the delegates of the candidatures from entering or leaving the polling station, or who in any way opposes them exercising the powers granted to them in the present law shall be punished with a prison term of up to six months”.

The MDM has also cited a video, circulating widely on the Internet, in which an alleged member of the polling station staff claims that he falsified results sheets in favour of the ruling Frelimo Party. He claimed that the MDM had won at his polling station, but the staff wrote phoney numbers on the results sheet, giving victory to Frelimo.

It is precisely such fraud that polling station monitors should have stopped – but could not do so if they were under arrest.

Felisberto Naife, the general director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), told AIM on Tuesday that, if the man making the confession really is a member of the polling station staff, “it’s an electoral crime which should be denounced to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, so that those responsible can be punished”.

Naife said that the STAE central office is working with the Maputo City branch of STAE to investigate the matter.

The video was apparently filmed by the Human Rights League – but it does not give the man’s name, and his face is obscured. Without a name, or the location of the polling station, it will be difficult to check whether the claim is real or a hoax.

The man in the video was confessing to a serious crime, which carries a stiff jail sentence. The law governing municipal elections states “Anyone who in any way intentionally vitiates, replaces, suppresses, destroys or alters the electoral registers, the ballot papers, the polling station minutes and results sheets or any other documents concerning the election and the count shall be punished with a prison term of two years or more”.

Meanwhile, in the northern town of Angoche, on the coast of Nampula province, the independent group ASSEMONA (Association for Moral and Civic Education in the Exploitation of Natural Respurces), which came second to Frelimo, made a formal protest on polling day itself that "the district electoral administrator took packets of ballot papers and gave them to Frelimo, which marked them for its candidate Americo Assane Adamugy and then distributed them to members to put into ballot boxes".

STAE responded officially on Thursday saying that, since this was a crime, the complaint had been passed onto the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

ASSENONA said it caught several people with these ballot papers. In one case, ASSEMONA says a group of pre-marked ballot papers was found at 06.45 – fifteen minutes before polls opened – in a house belonging to a candidate on the Frelimo list for the municipal assembly. At 08.00 an ASSEMONA monitor stopped a voter putting five ballot papers for the mayor and five for the assembly, all marked for Frelimo, into the ballot boxes.

ASSEMONA gave Bulletin a list of serial numbers on the ballot papers it had in its possession. The Bulletin said it has tried unsuccessfully to confirm that these are real ballot papers, and to find which polling station they come from, but STAE did not respond to this request.

Ballot papers were supposed to be in sealed bags that were only opened by the polling station staff at 07.00 at the start of polling. That extra ballot papers were circulating outside the polling stations is an alarming claim indeed. A check on the serial numbers, however, should reveal whether these really were among the ballot papers STAE had ordered for Angoche from a South African printing company, or whether they come from somewhere else.

Post published in: Africa News

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