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Postelection Statement on Mozambique Elections, Dec. 6, 1999

Maputo, Mozambique…The Carter Center's election observation delegation would like to commend the Mozambican people for their participation in the general elections of December 3-5, and to present this preliminary statement on the electoral process.

Our delegation is co-led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former President Ketumile Masire of Botswana, and includes 50 persons representing 16 different countries. The delegation was invited by the National Elections Commission (CNE), and welcomed by the major political parties. Carter Center election observers visited 649 polling stations in approximately 50 districts across all of Mozambique's provinces, representing an estimated 550,000 registered voters.

Prior to the arrival of this delegation, the Center issued two pre-election reports, first on the voter registration process in August, and then on the campaign and electoral preparations. The Center found that registration was very high, that the CNE and STAE were performing well, and that the major parties appeared generally satisfied with registration.

In October, the Center opened a field office and deployed nine medium-term observers to report on the campaign and electoral preparations. These observers found that while there were some incidents of violence during the campaign, the parties campaigned actively and felt they were able to get out their message. However, regrettable delays in the availability of campaign finance funds made it difficult for most parties to begin effective campaigning until well into the campaign period.

The delays were due to several factors including the late delivery of contributions from international donors, disagreements over the relative share of funds to be supplied by donors and the government of Mozambique, poor preparation on the part of parties in preparing candidate lists, and the time required for CNE to verify the eligibility of parties to receive funds. The Center also found that media coverage during the campaign was frequently characterized by incomplete and overly partisan reporting.

Although the voting is now over, the Center will continue to observe the counting and tabulation process for provincial election results as well as the tabulation of national results. Once these observations are complete, the Center will issue a final report on the entire electoral process.

On the basis of our visits to polling stations and other information gathered by our delegates, we offer the following observations:

High turnout.
Voting was peaceful and orderly throughout the country, and delegation members reported high turnout in all provinces. A preliminary estimate of turnout at the polling stations we visited is approximately 75%, with strong representation of women.

STAE and electoral preparations.
Polling station officials were generally well organized, efficient and consistent in the performance of their duties. They showed themselves to be responsive to the concerns of voters and party agents, and demonstrated their commitment to enable voters to exercise their right to vote.

The overwhelming majority of the 8350 polling stations opened on time on the first day of voting. However, logistical difficulties in delivering materials contributed to extended delays in opening of polling stations in some parts of the country, especially Zambezia. By the end of the second day of voting 77 polling stations in Zambezia province had not yet opened. Voting was extended by the CNE for a third day to address this problem. After the third day, the CNE and STAE reported that 11 polling stations were never opened. While this is a serious concern, the impact is limited to about 8,000 of the 7.1 million registered voters (about 0.113%). This amounts to approximately 0.57% of the total number of registered voters in Zambezia province.

Presence of party agents and observers.
Party agents from both major parties were present at the large majority of polling stations visited, and in almost all cases reported that the process was functioning normally. Similarly, there was strong presence of domestic observers in many of the areas visited. The domestic observers usually remained in a single polling location throughout the voting and worked well with international observers, who with much smaller numbers, moved around throughout the course of the election.

Party agents and domestic observers reported very few problems at the polling stations we visited, and expressed satisfaction with the process. In the overwhelming majority of the polling stations we visited, party agents and domestic observers indicated that there were "no problems, " or "a few, minor problems."

Our delegates came to similar conclusions, reporting that the voting process functioned normally in polling stations visited. Serious problems were observed in only a small fraction of the polling stations.

Participation of women.
Most of our observers were impressed by the high levels of participation by women as polling officials, observers, party agents and voters. On average, there were roughly two women polling officials per station. Women were also present in large numbers among the domestic observers and party agents.

While our assessment of the electoral process to date is largely positive, we want to note several concerns, as follows:

Processing of electoral complaints.
For the most part, institutions established to deal with electoral complaints have not functioned as effectively as they might. Although problems reported by Renamo in Tete do not provide sufficient grounds to challenge the overall results, they are nonetheless instructive in this regard. In Tete, Renamo reported that members were intimidated during the campaign period making it impossible to campaign and to credential its party agents in 3 districts, Changara, Cahora Bassa, and Mague. The CNE and STAE eventually attempted to respond, but the actions were late and Renamo agents were not observed at polling stations in Changara district. The CNE's position is that these problems are electoral crimes that should be addressed by the police, not CNE. While the police have responsibility to deal with electoral crimes, the issues raised in this complaint should be within the competence of an elections commission.

The failure of the CNE to address these issues undermines the potential effectiveness and credibility of electoral institutions. For their part, political parties have too often relied soley on the media to voice complaints rather than use appropriate formal channels. Democratic institutions can only be strengthened when and if the problems that they are designed to address are in fact referred to them.

Other issues.
Our delegation noted several other minor concerns, including late opening of some polls (discussed above), concerns about positioning of voting booths, and voter education.

Observers reported that some voting booths were positioned in a manner that did not adequately ensure the secrecy of the ballot. In many instances we were told that this was done at STAE's direction in order to prevent propaganda or other inappropriate material being left in the booth.

In spite of much evidence of a good civic education campaign, our observers reported that a number of voters, especially elderly persons, appeared completely unfamiliar with the voting process.

Finally, there have been limited reports about other incidents, including campaigning at the polling stations, and an apparent assault of polling officials by Renamo members. However, these seem unlikely to affect the outcome of the elections.

Overall, the strong sense of our delegation is that the process we have witnessed so far has been very positive. Our observers were very impressed by STAE's preparation and administration of the electoral process, and by the CNE´s commitment to seeing the process through to a successful conclusion. We also commend the commitment of poll workers, party agents, and domestic observers.

Mozambicans turned out in large numbers to participate in this important exercise of democratic choice. We know that there are still crucial phases to be completed, including counting and tabulation of both the provincial and national vote results, and we will be following these processes in the weeks ahead.

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