The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and the Election Resource Centre (ERC) are closely following the political developments in Zimbabwe which we believe will inevitably lead to an election. Credible and legitimate elections are the central feature of a democratic society. However, there is more to a free and fair election than just holding a ballot. Cognisant of the above notion, ZESN and ERC are calling for a pathway to free, fair and credible elections premised on (1) proper constitutionally aligned electoral laws (2) effective electoral administrative arrangements (3) a political environment that allows citizens to make free and informed choices on electoral processes.
Having been involved in the oversight of electoral processes and advocacy for electoral reform in Zimbabwe, ZESN and ERC believe that there is an opportunity to rebuild confidence, trust and respect by improving democratic processes. The priority for Zimbabwe in this prevailing political dispensation is for the country to become a fully functioning constitutional democracy that ensures a dignified and lawful transition guided by the Supreme Law of Zimbabwe.
ZESN and ERC believe that there are five fundamental requirements which must be completed before Zimbabwe is able to hold a credible election, namely:
1. New Electoral Law
Cognisant of previous efforts by the Government to implement electoral reforms such as the General Laws Amendment Act (2016) and the recent Electoral Amendment Bill (2017), ZESN and ERC reiterate their positions that electoral reforms must not be piecemeal, selective and inadequate. Hence the need for a new electoral law which fosters democratic values and is fully aligned to the Constitution of Zimbabwe. In the absence of substantive realignment and reforms the holding of credible elections will be difficult.
2. Voter Registration
A complete, accurate and current voters’ roll is key in enhancing the credibility of any election and is an important tool in improving the efficiency of the Electoral Management Body. The creation of a voters’ roll should be free from politically motivated bias. It is imperative that the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process enables all those who qualify as citizens as provided in the Constitution of Zimbabwe be allowed to register without hindrances. We urge the ZEC to complete the BVR process must be completed and possibly be extended beyond previously scheduled dates as current indications are showing low turnout in some regions. ERC and ZESN would like to encourage all Zimbabweans to register to vote.
3. ZEC Independence
There is need for the revitalization of electoral governance through a truly independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which is highly professional and adequately resourced. ZESN and ERC reiterate the recommendation that the Parliament of Zimbabwe be accorded an oversight role over the Electoral Commission to ensure that its independence is not undermined.
4. Political Environment
Chief among other reforms is the need for a political environment that guarantees the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights. Therefore the two organisations are calling for the creation of a conducive political environment devoid of violence, intimidation, patronage, propaganda and hate speech with all stakeholders (citizens, political parties, traditional leaders, media, churches, CSOs etc) abiding by the rules of the electoral conduct.
There is need for an effective and efficient electoral dispute resolution mechanism that responds to potential conflicts and disputes before, during and after an election. Institutions supporting democracy such as Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the judiciary should execute their mandate without fear or favour, ensuring that meaningful sanctions are put in place for perpetrators of human rights violations and that there is an enforceable Code of Conduct for political parties. ZESN and ERC believe that this will give citizens confidence to participate freely in electoral processes in Zimbabwe.
5. Election Observation
Observation and monitoring of electoral processes play an important role in safeguarding election integrity. In addition, election observation promotes transparency, accountability and strengthens democratic processes. This important role of observers is also recognised in the laws of Zimbabwe. Therefore, ZESN and ERC call for the invitation of observers to be de-linked from the executive, and be broadened to include a wider range of observers from the regional, continental and international communities.
ZESN and ERC note that the involvement of SADC, the African Union and South Africa as the Chair of SADC must place the interest of the people of Zimbabwe above all other considerations. All constitutional and democratic developments must be undertaken within the confines of the law and through a lawful process. Furthermore, we call upon SADC Electoral Advisory Council to expedite the process of deploying long term observers to Zimbabwe.
The pathway to the next election should be defined by the time required to implement and imbed the aforementioned key reforms that are pertinent to the holding of credible elections in Zimbabwe.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and the Election Resource Centre (ERC)