We are unhappy with signing of electoral bill

EDITOR — The Election Resource Centre (ERC) expresses its disquiet at the recent signing of the Electoral Amendment Bill into law by President Robert Mugabe as notified in the Government Gazette of Friday August 22, 2014.  The presidential assent to the electoral changes happened in the realm of profound inadequacies of the Bill in terms of its failure to address fundamental challenges to the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe as noted by election stakeholders during the July 2013 polls.

While the recent amendments were meant to address legitimate gaps to the continued handling of electoral processes, such adopted changes failed in a big way to exhaustively address other critical gaps related to the electoral processes, for instance the contradictions which exist with regards to voter registration.

On one hand, the Constitution of Zimbabwe bestowed on Zec the task of registering voters inter alia, the Electoral Act on the other hand continues to recognise the Registrar General as being in charge of that process.

Essentially, as Zimbabwe subscribes to a continuous voter registration model, there continues to be a gap and indeed lack of clarity on who and where prospective voters could register as voters at present.

The ERC appreciates the need to expedite the legitimisation of changes that were brought through the Presidential Temporary Measures Act (Statutory Instrument 85/2013) which facilitated administration of the July 2013 harmonised elections.

Equally acknowledged was the need to address gaps which existed especially with regard to the filling of vacancies which could emerge in the legislature.

In such acknowledgement, the ERC is deeply concerned with what has become a deplorable culture of piecemeal, non-comprehensive and reactionary approach to electoral reform which often results in the nation plunging into electoral events ill prepared.

In fact the reason why a presidential decree had to be used to make inevitable amendments to the Electoral Law ahead of the July 2013 polls was squarely because the coalition government quibbled over making timeous and comprehensive changes to the electoral law.

As the nation emerges from disputes surrounding the July 2013 polls, the ERC calls upon concerned electoral authorities to have a defined plan for comprehensive and inclusive electoral reforms which are  informed by past electoral practices while it also considers views from all stakeholders, including recommendations from regional and domestic observer groups who monitored the past general elections.

The election authorities must desist from the often reactionary, ad hoc and haphazard approach to electoral reform which regrettably creates a fertile ground for contestations on any given electoral event.

The mentioned plan must recognise that efforts to comply with the requirements of the new Zimbabwe Constitution are time-bound. The changes to the Electoral Law, as demanded by the Constitution will result in significant changes not only to the electoral system, but also to the work of institutions mandated with managing elections.


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