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Sustainable Electoral Democracy In Mozambique

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1. Sustainable Electoral Democracy In Mozambique –
International Support And Self-Reliance

By Dr. Marc de Tollenaere

The paper essentially focuses on electoral management in Mozambique, with particular emphasis on the running of the second multiparty general elections (presidential and legislative) held from 3 to 5 December 1999. It is divided in four parts. Attached are a list of acronyms, an overview of the main sources and three comparative (1194/1999) tables (one on registration and participation, and two with results of respectively presidential and legislative elections).

The brief historical background explains that the new Constitution of 1990 and the General Peace Agreement (GPA) of 1992 constituted the basis for the creation of electoral structures to manage multiparty elections. That structure was clearly marked by the post-conflict political environment dominated on the one hand by Frelimo (the party that came out of the liberation struggle and held executive and legislative power since 1975) and on the other hand Renamo (a guerrilla movement generated by the regional geo-political forces of the late seventies and fed by internal discontent that waged an anti-Frelimo war gradually affecting the whole country) which was turned into a political party upon the signature of the GPA. Although the structure of the electoral management did not radically change since it was first constituted in late 1993, there are some notable modifications, generally indicating a "normalisation" in terms of democratic practices (e.g. the differentiation between Frelimo and Government and the voluntary character of decision-making by consensus). This does not necessarily imply smoother relationships between the major stakeholders.

The second part starts with a brief description of the legal and institutional framework governing the 1999 general elections and some of the problems experienced during the implementation of the last electoral process (e.g. the relationship between STAE and CNE and some contradictions within the legislation). The paper elaborates further on the constraints imposed by the late approval of the legal and institutional framework on the electoral calendar, a recurrent problem in Mozambique from which lessons need to be learnt because of its negative political (pressure on decision-making), financial (increased costs) and technical (very tight implementation schedule) repercussions. Turning to the improvement of a level playing field, the paper focuses on the creation and management of a campaign fund distributed to all candidates and parties whose participation was validated. It is recognised that there is a clear gap between the ruling party and the opposition in terms of experience and resources, but problems related to the conception and implementation of the campaign fund raise serious doubts whether this is an effective tool to develop a level playing field. Moving on to more substantive matters, an account is presented of a key aspect of an electoral process that still takes place in an environment of profound distrust between the major contenders: the transparency guarantees imposed by the legislation and the electoral management on the implementation of the registration and the voting. The numerous legal, political and technical measures that were taken to guarantee transparency, freedom and fairness did not prevent that (unproven) allegations of fraud were made throughout the process and that no fundamental progress in building the confidence that everyone plays by the same rules (a basic indicator for the consolidation of democracy) was made. Following is a description of the arrangements to monitor and observe the elections, including a short assessment of how the media participated in the electoral process. Monitoring by party delegates of registration and voting was more widespread than in 1994, while there were now less national and in particular international observers. Both registration and voting received explicitly positive reports by observers and party monitors filed few complaints on irregularities. The Mozambican media played an active role in the electoral process. The quality and objectivity of the reporting by the written press was considered mixed. The second part proceeds with an account of the various voter education initiatives and their possible influence on participation in both registration and voting. The approach of the voter education was not differentiated towards particular target groups (women, youth, minorities…), but this does not seem to have negatively affected participation of a specific part of the electorate. The last distinctive feature of the 1999 elections addressed is electoral litigation, focussing on the appeal of Mr. Dhlakama and the Renamo-UE coalition against the results of the elections as published by the CNE on 22 December 1999. The Supreme Court investigated the counting process and validated the results. This ruling ensued in increased political tension and the current denouncement by the opposition of the legitimacy of the new government.

The third part aims to be more analytical, starting with some general observations on electoral management in the wider context of democratisation. It explains that institutions and laws were subject to many changes over a short period of time, reflecting at the same time continued search for political consensus as well as continued distrust. This is followed by a concise analysis of the main challenges facing the electoral management: CNE in its role as political supervisor and STAE as technical implementer. STAE still faces problems in terms of management and will have to be creative and well prepared to implement future, necessarily cheaper elections. The independence of the CNE is definitely not absolute, and this will be difficult to achieve as long as political parties nominate members. Furthermore a grey zone remains between supervision and implementation, elucidated by the events related to the counting.

The fourth part attempts to formulate practical and feasible suggestions for international and national stakeholders and elaborates a little further on the changing role of the international community. For the national stakeholders it is proposed to consolidate the registration, clarify the role of the electoral structures and improve the legislation. The international stakeholders are suggested to maintain and strengthen support to ongoing democratic consolidation programmes and to promote informal dialogue.

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