It is now ten months since the 2018 harmonised elections whose outcome was disputed and contested in the Constitutional Court. Efforts to engage different stakeholders to review, consider, propose and implement electoral reforms in the post-election phase of the election cycle remain ongoing. Sadly the lethargic pace with which reform initiatives are being undertaken is very worrying. Election stakeholders including the government of Zimbabwe, the Parliament of Zimbabwe, institutions supporting democracy, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, political parties including those engaged in dialogue and those outside the platform and ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe must take seriously the issue of timely crafting, implementing and testing electoral reforms as part of efforts towards improving future elections.
The ERC acknowledges:
- The conceding by the President of Zimbabwe in August 2018 in Windhoek, Namibia on the side lines of the SADC summit that Zimbabwean elections needed reforms;
- The setting up of an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Political and Electoral Reforms chaired by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs;
- The ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance by Parliament of Zimbabwe and the adoption by Senate;
- The hosting of a post-election review conference by ZEC bringing together election stakeholders to assess how the 2018 elections were conducted.
ERC, however, expresses cautious optimism at the developments as they relate to substantive electoral reforms.
It is important that the initiatives being pursued to institute reforms be as inclusive as possible. Neither government, parliament, ZEC nor the political parties currently engaged in dialogue can prioritize, adopt, draft and implement electoral reforms on their own. The process of identifying priorities for reforms, accepting and rejecting any of such reforms, drafting the reforms and implementing the same must accommodate all election stakeholders in a transparent and accountable manner. Reforms identified, adopted and implemented by a few election stakeholders at the exclusion of others will most likely be rejected.
People own that which they are a part of.
Reforms must further be approached through defined mechanisms of accountability to the people of Zimbabwe with clear terms of references and time lines to deliver measurable returns. All pursuits of reforms must therefore ensure that the interests of the citizens are put first and that citizens are consulted.
The ERC insists that an all-inclusive Electoral Reforms Committee must be established to consider the issue of electoral reforms as a matter of urgency to consider the following which lie at the core of the country’s cycle of disputed elections.
Strengthening of institutions supporting democracy including but not limited to ZEC with an emphasis on:
- Independence with a focus on removing provisions that subordinate independent commissions to the Minister of Justice in terms of approving regulations;
- Transparency in the administration of electoral processes;
- Inclusive planning, executing and reviewing of electoral processes;
- Accountability in terms of a positive attitude towards provision of public service to citizens and stakeholders.
- Strengthening of the state broadcaster to act as a public broadcaster that is accountable and operates without biases.
- Strengthened non-partisan role of traditional leaders across the election cycle in full compliance with provisions in the constitution.
- Strengthening of Election Dispute Resolution mechanisms to include administrative measures to limit escalation of issues to the courts.
- Enforcing the right to vote to include voting by citizens in the diaspora and those in prisons.
As the narrative around the need for dialogue and engagement continues in Zimbabwe, the sincerity of such conversations must be reflected in the substantive issues that are discussed and agreed upon and elections and electoral reforms must not be omitted.
Electoral reforms are an urgent priority that should be resolved without any further delays.
Source: Election Resource Centre