Maputo — Mozambique’s National Elections Commission (CNE) has proposed that voter registration ahead of the municipal elections scheduled for 11 October 2023 should be held between January and March.
Speaking in Maputo on Thursday at a meeting with political parties, civil society bodies and cooperation partners on the current stage of preparations for the elections, the CNE spokesperson, Paulo Cuinica, said the exact dates for the voter registration will be announced by the government, but the proposal from the CNE is the first quarter of the year.
“Naturally, we are making a proposal based on the time needed to undertake this activity”, he said. “The work must be done before the end of the first quarter of the year. Any later would cause complications”.
Cuinica said that all the members of the 11 provincial election commissions have been sworn into office. Now the district elections commissions in the 58 districts that contain municipalities must be appointed and sworn in.
The members of the commissions will then be trained to use all the computerized electoral equipment. New equipment is being imported, said Cuinica, and equipment used in the last elections is being upgraded.
But all the CNE’s plans face a potentially fatal obstacle: there is not enough money. The CNE estimates that 3.2 billion meticais (about 50 million US dollars at the current exchange rate) is needed for all the election preparations.
But to date the CNE only has one billion meticais guaranteed and is thus facing a shortfall of 2.2 billion meticais.
“Right now we are in dialogue with the government to see how this deficit can be overcome”, said Cuinica. “Naturally, if they so wish, the donors may support the elections, but this will also be via the government, because it is the State Budget that should fund elections”.
Mozambique’s partners have made it repeatedly clear that Mozambique should move towards self-sufficiency in financing its elections. There is little excuse for dependence on foreign aid almost 30 years after the first multi-party elections were held.
Other problems facing the CNE are uncertainties about the Covid-19 pandemic and the threat of terrorism in the northern province o Cabo Delgado.
In recent weeks the number of new cases of Covid-19 in Mozambique has been relatively small, with almost no deaths or hospitalisations. There has been no sign of a “fifth wave” of infection. But the situation could change by next year. Cuinica said the CNE has been exchanging impressions with countries such as Ghana, which have already held elections during the pandemic.
As for Cabo Delgado, only one municipality, Mocimboa da Praia, has been occupied by the jihadists, but they were driven out in August last year. Nonetheless, holding elections in Mocimboa da Praia will be a challenge.
A connected problem is ensuring that people displaced by the terrorists will enjoy the right to vote, although many of them are living in other parts of Cabo Delgado, or across the provincial boundary in Nampula.
Solving these issues, Cuinica said, depends on “other actors (presumably the defence and security forces), with whom the CNE has been exchanging impressions. As soon as the conditions are created, the elections will be held in that part of the country”.