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Carter Center Finds Strong Turnout and Party Support for Voter Registration in Mozambique

Maputo, Mozambique…..A Carter Center delegation in Mozambique to observe the voter registration process found high rates of turnout, especially among women, and reported that both major political parties appear to be satisfied with the process to date. The 13-member delegation, which spent 10 days in Mozambique to assess the registration process, issued a short report summarizing their findings.

Registration began on July 20 and will last until Sept. 17 in preparation for Mozambique's upcoming general elections, the first to be held independent of the historic 1992 peace agreement.

"Delegates found registration brigades well-organized and dedicated, even though they face long hours and difficult conditions. We also found citizens to be generally well informed about the process," said Dr. David Carroll, associate director of the Carter Center's Democracy Program.

The Carter Center group, which visited nearly 100 registration posts, found agents from the two main political parties present at a substantial majority of the registration posts visited, and those agents expressed satisfaction with the process. In addition, delegates found domestic observers well established in two provinces and preparing to work in several others.

However, the Carter Center also noted some logistical concerns that have the potential to create future difficulties if not remedied. The most serious involves the long distances and scarce transportation resources, which directly affect the timely distribution of supplies and the communication of data to the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE), which is conducting the registration exercise under the direction of the National Electoral Commission (CNE).

"The delegation hopes the imminent full assimilation of RENAMO into the STAE's electoral administration structures, including the technical staff in advance of the electoral period, will not only ensure compliance with the electoral law, but will also increase transparency and build confidence in the electoral process," said Dr. Carroll.

The Carter Center delegation was invited by the CNE and welcomed by all of the political parties represented in the Assembly of the Republic. The delegates come from nine different countries, and include representatives of the Electoral Institute of South Africa, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the North-South Institute, and Angolan civil society.

The Carter Center delegation arrived on Aug. 10, and following a series of meetings with the CNE, STAE, major political parties, and international and local NGOs in Maputo, deployed five teams throughout the country to observe registration. The teams visited close to 100 registration posts in 10 of the country's 11 provinces. Using a checklist designed specifically for the Mozambican registration process, teams systematically conducted interviews and collected data, which formed the basis for the delegation's assessment. The delegation's findings are presented in greater detail in the report that accompanies this press release. The report and its findings have been presented to the CNE.

Preliminary Statement The Carter Center Assessment of the Mozambique Registration Process
In response to an invitation from Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), The Carter Center organized an international delegation which visited Mozambique from 10 – 20 August to observe and assess the registration process in preparation for the country's upcoming general elections. The Center was also officially welcomed by FRELIMO, RENAMO, and other political parties. The purpose of the mission was twofold: to demonstrate the support and interest of the international community in Mozambique's first post-transition general elections; and to assess the registration process, which is the critical first phase in the upcoming electoral process.

The 13-member delegation included representatives from The Carter Center, the Electoral Institute of South Africa, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), the North-South Center (Portugal), and civil society in Angola. Following a series of meetings in Maputo with the CNE, the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration (STAE), major political parties, and international and local NGOs, the delegation deployed five teams throughout the country to begin assessing the registration process.

During a five-day period, the observers traveled nearly 10,000 kilometers and visited close to one hundred registration posts in ten of the eleven provinces in Mozambique. While the delegation believes that the cross-section of registration posts visited should be indicative of the country as a whole, it is important to acknowledge that the sites visited are a relatively small proportion of the posts in the country.

In addition to observing activities at registration posts, the delegation met with election officials, party officials, local observers, and civil society leaders. The delegation assessed the registration process with respect to several criteria, including access by citizens to registration, effectiveness on the part of those conducting the process, levels of turnout, and satisfaction of key actors with the process.

Overall, The Carter Ce nter delegation's findings were very positive. In particular, the delegation found:

  • high rates of turnout, especially among women
  • party agents were present and satisfied with the process at almost every post observed
  • evidence that citizens are receiving accurate information about where and how to register
  • well-organized, dedicated and efficient registration brigades
  • domestic observers well established in some provinces and beginning work in several other provinces.

There were, however, some logistical concerns that have the potential to create difficulties later on in the process. The most important concern involves the long distances and scarce transportation resources which directly affect the timely distribution of supplies and the communication of data to STAE. Long distances between registration posts were also cited as a hardship by registrants in a number of posts.

An additional concern of the delegation relates to the question of RENAMO's integration and active participation in STAE. In the spirit of reconciliation and concern for a fully transparent electoral process, the electoral law provides that political parties holding seats in Parliament be represented in CNE and STAE. The law mandates that parties' representation be in proportion to the parties' seats in Parliament. Given the considerable care taken to provide for RENAMO participation, it is important to ensure compliance with these provisions. Our delegation noted the absence of some RENAMO assistant directors, particularly at the district level, in some areas.

To ensure a high level of confidence and transparency in the process, the delegation believes that RENAMO's assistant directors should play an active role. Further, it will be critical to integrate RENAMO into the technical staff of STAE in advance of the electoral period in accordance with the electoral law.

In addition to these concerns, the delegation made note of several other aspects of the process which do not seem to affect the integrity of the process at this time. Nonetheless, these aspects might have some future impact and therefore bear mentioning. These include the need to clarify the rights and other duties of party agents, to ensure brigade members have food and rest as well as timely receipt of subsidies, to ensure consistency of police presence at posts, and to ensure that all STAE brigade members have official identification.

Although we are aware of some previous news reports of intimidation occurring before the beginning of the registration period, our delegates were pleased that we neither observed nor received reports of intimidation from brigade members, party agents, or electoral officials. Since the registration period is only half over, a final assessment depends on developments during the coming weeks. Nonetheless, our delegation's overall assessment of the process thus far was very positive. In particular we noted the following:

Turnout: Turnout appears to be quite high, with women comprising well over half of the total registered voters at most posts. The average number of people registered per day in the posts we visited significantly exceeded the STAE's 75 per day target. In the posts observed by the delegates, the average was 94 registrants per day. There was clear evidence in many areas of successful civic education campaigns on the registration process. Overall, voters appeared to understand where and how to register.

Brigades: Brigade members appeared well-trained, efficient, well-organized and dedicated to their work, and the registration books and weekly reports were orderly and well-maintained. Despite difficulties with transportation and long distances to travel, brigades in most cases were consistently able to report weekly registration figures to the district STAE.

Party Agents: Party agents from one or more parties were present at all posts visited, and reported that they were satisfied with the process so far. There were party agents present from both FRELIMO and RENAMO at approximately 75% of registration posts visited.

Domestic Civil Society Observers: Credentialled civil society observers from several civil society organizations were present at posts in most provinces where the Carter Center observed. In Nampula, Cabo Delgado, Inhambane and Gaza, FECIV and AMODE had completed training, had begun to receive their credentials, and in some cases had begun observing, with plans to observe at every post. FORCISO and Catholic University observers were well established and observing registration in Sofala province.

While we did receive reports from brigade supervisors, STAE officials, and party agents of occasional problems such as attempted double registration, the majority of these concerns had been dealt with in a legal and satisfactory manner. There were no formal complaints lodged at any of the posts we visited.

In addition to these very positive aspects, our delegation noted several concerns:

Logistics and Communication: The most important logistical issues are those posed by long distances between posts and lack of transportation. STAE officials and brigade members are working hard to overcome the challenges presented by long distances, poor road conditions, and scarce transportation and communication resources. In many districts, brigades had been resupplied at least once and many posts reported visits from either district or provincial STAE officials.

The initial deployment and relocation of mobile brigades and materials in zones of difficult access thus far has gone fairly smoothly. We noted that some provincial STAEs had clear plans to address the issue of population dispersion by increasing the number of mobile brigades and moving them to cover unregistered areas.

Despite the efforts of many brigades and STAE officials, however, lack of sufficient means of transportation, long distances and/or poor road conditions continue to impede efficient communication with and resupply of some posts. One isolated but serious problem was witnessed in Gurue, Zambezia Province, where we observed a post which had run out of materials and was unable to operate.

When our delegation arrived, there were approximately 100 people waiting to register, many of whom had walked over six hours to reach the post and had slept at the post overnight in the expectation that it would re-open the following day. The post did not re-open and consequently the prospective registrants returned home without registering.

Not all districts have access to a radio or telephone and most do not have their own transportation. Timely reporting of information between district and provincial STAE is therefore affected. In most cases, however, the problem is within districts with remote or difficult-to-access posts. Many zones of difficult access within certain districts are experiencing difficulties in reporting results, many of which are delayed for several days or more.

Distance to Posts: Long distances from home to registration post were a problem for some registrants. Some registrants reported travel time of up to two days, though most reported a walk of less than two hours. In Inharrime district in Inhambane, one group reported that they had walked for several hours and that many people in the village were not planning to register because of the distance. Similar reports were heard in at least one district in Nampula Province.

RENAMO Representation in STAE: An area of particular concern for the delegates is the participation of RENAMO nominated officials into STAE, particularly at district level. In some areas, RENAMO assistant directors at district level were conspicuously absent from STAE offices. In others, RENAMO assistant directors were present, but voiced concern that they were not fully involved in STAE´s work.

Other Observations

  1. Party Agents: In some areas, there was a lack of clarity regarding the role of party agents at the posts, both among party agents themselves, and between party agents and brigade supervisors, and STAE officials. In at least one district, STAE officials and brigade members had a more narrow interpretation of the role of party agents than the law provides, and prevented a party agent from examining voter cards and registration booths. In other posts, agents were stationed some distance from where the registration process was going on, often outside of the building, where it would be difficult to monitor the process.
  2. Security: Although police were present in most posts, there was some inconsistency. In a few cases, brigade supervisors complained about the habitual absence of police officers during the day, though there were no reports of the police failing to guard kits at night.
  3. Work conditions: Brigade members (and in at least one case STAE officials) in several provinces raised the issue of food and subsidies for brigade members. In several provinces, brigade members reported that access to markets or other sources of food was very difficult in the areas where they were posted. In addition, members reported that they routinely worked entire days without food or rest. This is a concern not only on behalf of the brigade members themselves but because fatigue can easily contribute to lack of concentration and errors in record keeping.

In general, The Carter Center delegation was very impressed by what we observed of voter registration. We applaud what we have witnessed of the process so far and the high level of participation by the Mozambican people. We offer the following recommendations and conclusions in the belief that all the actors share a common goal of continuing to build an election process that is transparent and democratic.

Logistics and Distribution of Posts: The registration process has provided valuable information on the current distribution of the population throughout the national territory. STAE officials are now using this information to plan the number of polling stations. We are encouraged by the flexibility STAE officials have demonstrated regarding the distribution of voter registration brigades, and hope that STAE will continue to move mobile brigades as appropriate, and that it will likewise plan the distribution of polling stations so as to service voters as effectively as possible.

RENAMO Participation in STAE: All sides have formally recognized the importance of the full integration and active participation of party officials into STAE at all levels as indicated in the electoral law. We believe it is important to ensure that officials nominated by RENAMO are integrated fully and participate actively in the work of STAE. Specifically, RENAMO deputy directors already present need to be more actively engaged. In addition, once the electoral period is defined, technical staff from RENAMO should be fully integrated. These measures will help increase transparency and build confidence in the electoral process.

Party Agents: Both parties have affirmed in the electoral law an active and positive role for party agents. Since there appears in some areas to be a lack of clarity about the role of party agents, it is important that all parties and STAE have a common understanding of party agents and that party agents are actively engaged in the process.

Domestic Civil Society Observers: The presence of civil society observers at registration posts is an important element in the registration process. We urge that the process of providing credentials be completed expeditiously to ensure the presence of civil society observers at all posts. The work and reports of these observers will be an important source of independent assessment of the process during the rest of registration and after. We encourage civil society observation organizations to broaden their observation efforts to include other specialized aspects of the electoral process, such as the centralized computerization of the electoral register.

Registration Post Improvements:

  1. In many posts, the registration kits still have several numbered stickers from previous elections. While the re-use of existing kits is desirable, it is important to note the potential for confusion at election time if the old numbers are wrongly interpreted as current brigade numbers. The old numbers should be removed or covered to avoid any potential confusion.
  2. Litter, particularly toxic film and film packaging, was strewn about at most registration posts. Containers which have been provided should be used conscientiously. Where posts have no containers, they should be provided.

The people of Mozambique at all levels of society are taking an active role in this post-transition elections process. Our observations lead us to conclude that the voter registration process is proceeding in an extremely positive way and that Mozambicans are actively engaged in the process. We encourage all Mozambicans to continue to play an active part in this critical process. As the voter registration and electoral processes in these second national elections move forward, and as CNE, STAE and all actors continue to gain valuable experience, it will be important to review carefully the lessons learned, in order to design electoral and observation processes that are efficient, cost effective and sustainable for the long term.

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