It has been eight months since the holding of the 2018 harmonized election, which was viewed by many as a watershed election given developments influencing the political and electoral environment in the run up to the poll. This has provided Electoral Stakeholders with numerous opportunities to set Zimbabwe on a new path towards a more democratic culture defined by not only regular elections, but credible and truly free and fair ones.
While a number of factors suggesting a trajectory towards improved elections characterized the pre-election season including:
- the adoption of a biometric voter registration system,
- the registration of over 5 million voters in under 10 months, improvements in voter education,
- a more tolerant political environment, the opening up of Zimbabwe to international media and election observers in advance of the election among other positives,
However, the elections were tainted by the limited transparency, verifiability and accountability in the conduct of the election management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) surrounding:
- voter registration and the voters’ roll,
- results management,
- postal voting,
- the printing and receiving of election material including ballot papers and,
- recruitment and training of election officials
Other underlying challenges noted by observers of the 2018 harmonized elections included an Electoral Act not fully aligned with the Constitution, compromised independence of the election management body, biased and partisan conduct by the public broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and traditional leaders and a weak dispute resolution mechanism.
Given the commitment to the holding of credible, free and fair elections shared by the government before and after the 2018 elections, assurances by the President that more needed to be done and would be done to improve the quality of elections (after the elections), the question that remains unanswered is how far are we in improving future elections?
With full knowledge that elections are a process and not a periodic event, the ERC today launches a post-election follow up initiative meant to mobilize Zimbabweans to follow up on:
- Election promises
- Electoral reforms
- Transparent and accountable conduct of those holding public office
- ZBC reporting in accordance with the constitution
- Traditional leaders respecting the constitution
Through the initiative, the ERC recognizes that citizens are central in promoting improvements in the electoral cycle and compelling constitutional conduct by state institutions.
While various efforts by the government to consider reforms have been noted and appear to be underway such as the Inter Ministerial Taskforce on Electoral and Political Reforms, dialogue among some Presidential candidates of the 2018 harmonized elections and a commitment to fully align the Constitution, it is yet to be understood how the citizen can participate and be a priority, if not the center of such efforts.
The ERC resumed efforts towards electoral reforms through engaging stakeholders for purposes of prioritizing electoral reforms in late 2018 and such efforts are built around citizen participation. Any advocacy effort devoid of the citizen stands little chance of succeeding.
The ERC therefore invites Zimbabweans in general, women, youth and the disadvantaged, to ask the questions;
to those holding public office.
The quality of future elections and democratic processes depends on what we collectively begin to do now and not a few months before the 2023 polls.
Source: Election Resource Centre (ERC)