Mozambique prepares for October elections

03 Aug 2009

”I have voted in every election since 1994. I feel it is my right as a citizen, and I want to use it”, said Mrs. Julieta Batista from Maputo as she registered on the 28th of July. Julieta had lost her old voter card. She said she would vote on the 28th of October, the date of the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections in Mozambique.

Conducting three elections at once will be a challenge. Stelia Mueche, 25, who was working at the registration post, knows a lot of people who feel that voting is not useful: “Some people may not even understand why there are elections every year, let alone three of them simultaneously.” On the other hand, she says: “I also know a lot of young people who feel just the opposite: if we are allowed to vote, let’s act. Don’t leave it to others to decide for us!”

UNDP has supported Mozambique’s electoral processes since the first multi-party parliamentary and presidential elections were held in 1994. This year, the organization is responding to the government’s efforts to align and train all the institutions that are taking part in the electoral process. The aim is to achieve fair, equal and transparent elections.

The project has focused on improving the technical skills and resources of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) and the National Electoral Commission (CNE), and building legal and ethical awareness among electoral officers. STAE has already trained 15,000 registration officers and 1,500 civic education agents. 125,000 polling officers are waiting for their turn to be trained.

The UNDP project also aims to conduct capacity-building for journalists and civic society organizations to raise awareness of the fair process and the rights of the citizen. The police will also be trained to ensure the elections are peaceful.

Access to information and communication between political parties and electoral institutions are also being promoted. During the elections, information centres will be established around the country to improve coverage of the elections. The centres may also be used by national and international observers and party members as their main source of information.

More than 387,000 new voters enrolled in the latest 45-day registration period. This is in addition to the 9.3 million names gathered during the 2007 and 2008 registrations.

This year’s update of the registry concerned only those who had lost or damaged their voting cards, moved, or still had not registered, in addition to those who will reach the voting age of 18 before 28th of October. For the first time, STAE also registered Mozambican expatriates from the diaspora in South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Portugal, and Germany.

Registration "brigades", like the one Stelia Mueche belongs to, entered the data of people like Julieta into a mobile ID package, photographed her with a webcam, took an electronic fingerprint, and printed the laminated, full-color voting card. The whole process only took five minutes.

As UNDP’s Chief Technical Advisor, Mr. Abdoulaye Kourouma at STAE observes: “The main concern of the electoral bodies remains how to persuade the people to vote. Even the 5,482 registration posts, postos de recenseamento, were mapped thoroughly and shared with the public through announcements in newspapers. This was an effort to inform the population in advance also of the exact location of polling stations.