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    9 May, 2015
Head of CNE observes UK elections
London, 9 May (AIM) – The chairperson of Mozambique’s National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, interviewed by AIM on Saturday, stated that he is very impressed with the British electoral process.
His endorsement for the process followed a week-long visit to Britain to observe the holding of the parliamentary elections which resulted in a surprise outright victory for the Conservative party and incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron.
The elections were held on Thursday and all opinion polls and political activists were expecting the result to be so close between the two main parties, Conservative and Labour, that either a coalition or minority government would be inevitable.
Yet an opinion poll taken as voters left the polling stations, released just after voting closed, showed that the Conservative party was heading for an clear victory. In the end, even that poll underestimated the size of the defeat for Labour, with the Conservatives gaining an absolute majority of parliamentary seats – 331 out of 650.

The Conservatives can govern on their own, with no need to form a coalition. For the previous five years, the Conservatives ruled in coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party.

The Labour Party took 232 seats. Its Scottish heartlands, once the party’s bedrock, were devastated by the rise of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), which took 56 of the 59 Scottish seats.

Britain does not have proportional representation, and each seat is fought on a winner-takes-all basis (or “first past the post”). Thus the Conservative and SNP victories do not reflect their share of the popular vote. The Conservatives won 51 per cent of seats on only 36 per cent of the votes cast. Even more striking, the SNP took 95 per cent of the seats in Scotland with only 50 per cent of the Scottish vote.
In an interview with AIM, Carimo expressed his astonishment at how the losing political leaders accepted their defeat.
Only a few hours after the final result was declared, three party leaders resigned (Ed Miliband, of the Labour Party, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Nigel Farage of the far right United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP).

The Liberal Democrats paid a heavy price for propping up Cameron’s government for the previous five years. They were annihilated at Thursday’s polls, holding onto only eight of their previous 57 parliamentary seats.

Carimo noted that the defeated politicians took personal responsibility for the result and did not blame the electoral process or the winners. He stressed “that is the right thing for politicians to do, to understand that if citizens are voting for another candidate that is their right”.
In addition, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg both expressed deep personal sorrow for those colleagues who were not re-elected. Both the Labour and Liberal parties saw very senior party figures and household names lose their seats.
Carimo, who was a guest of the Electoral Commission, observed voting in three types of locality - in an urban setting in London, a London suburb and in a rural location.
He noted that although the process was the same in all places, some constituencies also held elections for local councils.
His impression was that the electoral process was very calm with a good turnout (an average of about 67 per cent). He noted that the process is very simplified when compared with Mozambique’s. In particular, he witnessed many voters turning up without any identification documents. Polling staff only had to make a quick check with the voters register before handing over a ballot paper.
Carimo stressed that this “shows trust between the polling agents and citizens. It is very good when you have such trust in the process”.
He also noted that there were no party officials inside the polling stations, which again shows trust in the polling staff. The head of the CNE argued that “this should be improved in our system. Political parties should have more trust in those running the process”.
Immediately after the polling closed at ten o’clock, the ballot papers were transferred to counting centres – there is no count at the polling stations themselves. Carimo highlighted the fact that the ballot boxes were transported without the need for police officers. In fact, he did not see any police during the whole process (although they are always on standby should a presiding officer request assistance).
For Carimo, this “shows citizens are aware of the electoral process and that it is a time when everyone should be free to express their desire for whom they want to represent them”.
He also expressed his admiration for the short time it took to release the results of the elections. There are 650 parliamentary seats and most were declared before dawn on Friday – thus less than 12 hours after polls closed. The few seats that took longer were affected by technical difficulties, remote location, or recounts (which candidates can request if they do not accept the original count).

There is nothing resembling the “intermediate count” at district and provincial level which dramatically slows down proceedings in Mozambique. Nor is there any electoral court equivalent to Mozambique’s Constitutional Council which must validate and proclaim the final results, weeks or months after polling day.
He noted that at the counting centres party agents are completely free to roam around and scrutinise the count.
Carimo expressed his opinion that the rapid release of results removes the opportunity for politicians to create mistrust in the process.
On Friday he paid a courtesy visit to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma. During the lengthy meeting the two dignitaries discussed the Commonwealth’s support for Mozambique’s electoral system, which has so far included two training sessions for members of the CNE.
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