Voter register chaos blights by-election

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) will allegedly use two voter registers in the Marondera Central by-election today, an election watchdog claimed yesterday — a major blow to hopes of a break with a history of chaotic polls.

Voters troop to polling stations in three constituencies, Marondera Central, Epworth and Mbire, eager for a by-election ballot less tainted by fraud and violence than the 2013 elections that lacked credibility in the eyes of Zimbabweans and international observers.

The Tawanda Chimhini-led Election Resource Centre (ERC), a think-tank and advocacy institution on elections and democracy, claimed the State-run Zec did not prepare adequately for the by-elections.

“The compilation of the voters’ rolls was a challenge,” ERC said in a statement.

“Zec did not have adequate time and resources and hence two voters’ rolls for the constituency have been produced.

“On Election Day, voters on the supplementary roll will be redirected to a specific polling station to cast their vote. Whilst Zec has put in place these measures, the ERC believes that this has a potential to disenfranchise the electorate.”

Zec chairperson Rita Makarau told the Daily News yesterday the ERC allegations were not correct.

“We definitely had enough resources and we definitely had enough time,” Makarau said. “I’m not quite sure what they are talking about. I wouldn’t want to challenge them before we engage them.”

Marondera Central and Mbire constituencies fell vacant after the expulsion of incumbent Zanu PF MPs Ray Kaukonde and David Butau respectively on

allegations of plotting against President Robert Mugabe, while the Epworth House of Assembly seat fell vacant after the death of Amos Midzi, who died in June of alleged suicide by poisoning, according to a preliminary autopsy report by police and pathologists..

ERC, whose vision is a Zimbabwe with transparent, credible and inclusive electoral processes at all tiers of society, noted rising cases of vote-buying ahead of the by-elections.

“ERC notes with concern that vote-buying was rife and in Marondera Central, a certain political party was intimidating voters by recording the serial numbers of the voter registration slips and telling them that the serial numbers will be used to see how they would have voted,” the ERC statement said.

ERC bemoaned lack of enforcement of the Electoral Code of Conduct.

However, the election watchdog welcomed the use of polling station-based voter registration which it said promotes transparency.

“This system whilst it is commendable in that it further cleans the voters’ roll and promotes transparency, political parties intimidated voters with post-election retribution,” its statement said.

ERC also noted lack of progress on electoral reforms insisting Zimbabwe has an incoherent and inconsistent electoral law.

“Section 67 of the Constitution guarantees the right to vote for all Zimbabweans. Unfortunately, this has not been enjoyed by all. The right to vote in these by-elections will not be enjoyed by all. Prisoners will not be able to vote contrary to provisions of the Constitution,” read part of the statement.

The ERC urged Parliament to fully align the Electoral Act to the provisions of the new Zimbabwe Constitution.

Successful elections would be a fillip for foreign investment in Zimbabwe as well as strengthening its international clout.

But failure could raise questions about how well-entrenched democracy is, more than two years after elections that returned President Robert Mugabe to power.

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