'Reforms delay jeopardises polls'

HARARE - Delays in considering the proposed amendments to the electoral laws is the biggest threat to a repeat of unrest at this year’s vote, the country’s biggest election watchdog has warned, saying hopes that reforms and new technology will ease a pressure cooker of tensions were being dashed.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power last November after a military-engineered intervention that ousted long-ruling despot Robert Mugabe, promised new rules would be in place for the next election, scheduled for mid-year, and promised a free and fair poll, but no substantive reforms have taken place so far.

Nelson Chamisa, the presidential candidate of the largest opposing coalition, the MDC Alliance, has said his conglomeration will unfurl street demonstrations and boycott elections if no electoral reforms are made.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, pictured below, said delays by Parliament to finalise the enactment of comprehensive reforms to the Electoral Act in line with constitutional provisions were disconcerting.

Special sittings of Parliament that were arranged last week to have “urgent government business” completed, particularly the Electoral Amendment Bill, came to nought.

MPs were recalled from recess, which was supposed to end at the close of April, but the National Assembly made no progress at all on the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The National Assembly’s Order Paper for the special sitting included proposed amendments to the Bill notified by the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Innocent Gonese, the MDC chief whip.

Debate did not take off purportedly because notices of further proposed amendments had been lodged too late and as a result, was adjourned until May 8.

“Zesn reiterates its position that the country’s electoral laws are significantly inadequate thus the need for urgent reform to create an enabling framework for the holding of free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.

“The Network calls upon legislators to put aside political differences and finalise the reform process especially given the imminence of the 2018 elections.

“While Zesn recognises some of the proposed amendments which include a provision for the closing of the voters’ roll before nomination, the network calls for full enforcement of current provisions such as the obligation of the public media to give fair coverage to all political parties and candidates.

“Based on previous experiences, there is need for enforcement of the current provisions for persons who will need assistance to vote to avoid abuse of the facility on election day,” Chipfunde-Vava said.

Zimbabwe is switching to an electronic register of voters after ballot boxes at the last elections were said to contain the votes of people who had not registered and even some who were dead.

“In addition, Zesn calls upon the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to publicise the procedures in the respect of data management, security and the de-duplication process in order to enhance transparency and stakeholder confidence in line with Section 156 of the Constitution.

“The absence of clear regulations on the management of information captured during the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise compromises the integrity of the entire voter registration process,” Chipfunde-Vava said.

She said as part of the proposed legal reforms, Zesn was calling for the Parliament of Zimbabwe to be accorded the oversight role over the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) as opposed to the ministry of Justice, ... to ensure that its independence is not compromised by the Executive or any power or authority.

“Furthermore, executive interference in electoral processes such as its seconding of persons to the Observer Accreditation Committee and in the enactment of electoral regulations must be removed,” she said referring to the move by the Foreign Affairs ministry to invite 46 countries to oversee crucial presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.

The invitations for observers was extended to member States of the Southern African Development Community, the European Union, China, India, Russia, Turkey and the US among others, according to Foreign Affairs and International Trade secretary Joey Bimha.

The Zesn director said it was essential for the political players to demonstrate genuine political will to effect electoral reforms which are critical to the creation of an enabling electoral environment.

“If the country is to hold free, fair and credible elections as pronounced by the President, Zec chairperson and government officials, it is imperative that the Electoral Act is fully aligned with the Constitution well in advance of the impending harmonised election to give adequate time for the implementation of the reforms,” Chipfunde-Vava said.

Comments (1)

lets shut down zimbabwe

g40 - 19 April 2018

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