Thursday, December 1, 2016


The former chairperson of Mozambique’s Constitutional Council, the body that is the final arbiter on matters of constitutional and electoral law, Rui Baltazar, on Monday demanded that people who commit electoral crimes should be treated in exactly the same way as any other criminalBaltazar is one of the most experienced and respected jurists in Mozambique. As a young lawyer he defended political prisoners in the colonial courts, and after independence he was justice minister and later finance minister in the governments of the country’s first president, Samora Machel. He was the first chairperson of the Constitutional Council, between 2003 and 2009.At a Maputo seminar on the country’s electoral legislation on Monday, Baltazar expressed his anger at the failure of the country’s legal system to punish people who violate the election laws. Despite well attested cases of fraud, and of violence during election campaign, very few people have ever been brought to trial for such offences. Baltazar had direct experience of fraudulent behaviour when would-be presidential candidates presented the Constitutional Council with documents that were obviously forged. One requirement for any presidential candidate is a list of at least 10,000 supporters, whose signatures must be verified by a notary.
Resultado de imagem para rui baltazar maputoBaltazar noted that, in the 2009 elections, one of the would-be candidates presented just ten valid signatures. At the time the Council noted that several candidates from minor political parties presented lists of names that had obviously just been copied from an electoral register, and that signatures had been added that were clearly by the same person. Although forging documents is a serious offence, the Public Prosecutor’s Office took no action against these fraudulent candidates Repeatedly, the media have reported on dishonest polling station staff deliberately invalidating votes (usually for opposition candidates) by adding another mark to ballot papers during the count. This type of fraud was denounced in 2009 by both the National Elections Commission (CNE) and by the Constitutional Council, but no action was taken.“The more electoral offences are committed, the more this behavior becomes normal, banal, and the less seriousness can we expect from our elections”, warned Baltazar”.“Something must be done to put an end to this impunity”, he declared. “It is a crime as serious as any other crime. We must regard the people who commit these electoral offences as criminals, as delinquents, regardless of what party they may belong to”.While it is true that political parties exist to compete for power, said Baltazar, that power should be used to serve the people, and not for personal gain.“Fight to win elections, yes”, he added, “but in order to develop the country, and improve the living conditions of our people, and not for personal benefit. Our political parties should be ashamed of having members or sympathizers who commit electoral crimes, and they should be the first to denounce them, however painful that may be”.He attacked the shift in attitudes away from collective solidarity towards personal benefits. “The philosophy that power exists to serve the people has been replaced by the belief that we must reach power in order to obtain privileges and benefits”, he accused.Political parties ought to be inspired by “ideals of solidarity, of sacrifice for the common good. But this is being lost in our country, if it ever existed, and power is being viewed fundamentally as a source of benefits”.

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