MAPUTO, The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, has postponed the election of a new ombudsman to next year since there was no consensus on a replacement for the incumbent, Jose Abudo, whose five-year term of office expired in May.

The ruling Frelimo Party proposed Justice Minister Isaque Chande for the job, while the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), proposed an MDM parliamentary deputy, Silverio Ronguane. The main opposition party, the rebel movement Renamo, proposed no candidate, and the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ivone Soares, issued a statement last week which was misinterpreted as offering tacit support for Chande.

Soares said she expected that Chande will respect the law scrupulously and ensure that Mozambicans will have a diligent ombudsman with the resources necessary to assist the people in their various complaints and petitions.

Angry MDM supporters condemned Renamo on social media for supporting the Frelimo candidate. In parts of the media, it was also assumed that Renamo was supporting Chande. Monday’s issue of the independent news sheet, Mediafax, for example, said Renamo was endorsing Chande, noting that this was very unusual.

As the deputies filed into the chamber for Monday’s proceedings, voting booths and ballot boxes were ready for the election but by mid-morning it became clear that in reality Renamo had no intention of supporting either candidate. The Assembly’s governing board, the Standing Commission, thus proposed delaying the election until the next sitting of the Assembly, in early 2018.

The Mozambican Constitution requires the ombudsman to be elected by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly deputies. Since there are 250 deputies, a successful candidate requires 167 votes.

Abudo was elected ombudsman in 2012, when Frelimo on its own had a two-thirds majority, and did not require the support of any other party. But Frelimo lost its two-thirds majority in the 2014 parliamentary election. The current parliament has 144 Frelimo deputies, 89 from Renamo and 17 from the MDM.

When the true Renamo position was known, the Assembly’s chairperson, Veronica Macamo, proposed the postponement of the election, on the grounds that there was no point in holding an election when it was known in advance that no candidate could win. The head of the Frelimo group, Margarida Talapa, supported the postponement. This way nobody loses,” she said. A delay is not the same as a retreat.”

The post is not vacant, since the law allows Abudo to continue in office as ombudsman until a replacement can be elected.