THE 1998 LOCAL ELECTIONS IN MOZAMBIQUE - 4
THE DIFFICULT ROAD TO THE POLLING
Notwithstanding the fact that the Voter Registration Update had a very positive outcome, problems still remained regarding some of the missing 1994 registers, as well as errors committed on the new transcribed registers. A special operation to recover those registers and correct the errors began on March 30, 1998, under the CNE supervision. This recovery operation, which lasted until April 19, took place only on the 33 councils selected for the local elections. Most of the missing registers were found and the errors on the new ones were corrected. But this dilema gave rise to antagonisms between the opposition parties and FRELIMO, the Government party. This animosity had already begun on January 27, 1998, when the 3 CNE members appointed by the parliamentary wing of RENAMO, suspended their functions at the CNE. The already tense situation was aggravated on April 15, when 15 smaller political parties who had formed a coalition with RENAMO also decided not to participate in the elections. After evaluating the pros and cons of this political conundrum, the CNE decided it was best to go ahead with the elections as planned. Many attributed this decision to the fact that there were still a good number of citizens' parties in the main cities which wanted to participate in the local elections. So, the electoral process continued. A training course for the Members of the Polling Station Posts began on May 4 and on May 13 the Civic Education Campaign for the polling began at Council level. This campaign which reached the population in the municipalities lasted until June 13. On June 15 the participating political parties in the local elections began their Electoral Campaign for the polling.
Although there was a municipal structure in Mozambique during the colonial era, it basically served the Portuguese community and the majority of Mozambicans had little or no say in the matter and could not vote. Furthermore, the colonial voting system, even for the Portuguese population, was not carried out in a democratic manner, as the elected officials were appointed by the colonial government. The terrible civil war which followed the independence of Mozambique in 1975 and ended only in 1992, left a lot of scars and mistrust among the political parties. But on June 30, 1998, Mozambique had its first free and democratic local elections, when its population could vote for whom they wished. Nonetheless, local elections being a new experience for the population and lack of a certain coordination caused a series of problems to surface during the polling. These problems occurred mainly in the cities of Maputo, Matola, Beira and Nampula. Missing or wrong keys to open the polling kits and lack of some electoral materials in other kits caused various delays in the polling stations. There were also a few sealing-plastic-ties that didn't fit into the sealing holes of the ballot boxes and some of these boxes were not sealed. This situation gave rise to various complaints and suspicion. However, this uncommon problem was solved by the presence of Party Poll Monitors who were in the polling stations supervising the operations. If the polling was rather chaotic in some of the big cities, the same could not be said about the majority of the 33 Councils where the elections took place under normal conditions.
The FRELIMO Party, unchallenged in most of the Councils due to the non-participation of the opposition parties, won all the seats in 27 Councils and most of the seats in the remaining 6. The number of abstentions was also very high (85.42% for the Municipal Council election and 85.45% for the Municipal Assembly election). All the problems and election date postponements which marked these elections left the population less than excited to participate in it. Thinking globaly, however, the experience was positive as the people had now learned that by voting they could make a difference in their municipality and their community.
PARTICIPATING POLITICAL PARTIES IN THE 1998 LOCAL ELECTIONS
FRELIMO - Frente de Libertação de Moçambique / Mozambique Liberation Front
GRM - Grupo de Reflexão e Mudanças / Group of Reflexion and Change
NATURMA - Grupo dos Naturais e Residentes da Vila da Manhiça / Group of Residents from the Town of Manhiça
RUMO - Resistência da Unidade Moçambicana / Resistance of the Mozambican Unity
JPC - Juntos Pela Cidade / Together for the City
PT - Partido Trabalhista / Working Party
OCINA - Organização das Candidaturas Independentes de Nacala-Porto / Organization of the Independent Candidatures of Nacala-Porto