The United Nations estimates there are close to 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home by wars, economic hardships at home or work-related movements.
The world is now witnessing the highest level of displacement on record. In Zimbabwe, whilst official figures are not readily available, it is estimated that close to three million Zimbabweans reside outside the country. Past elections have disenfranchised significant proportions of these eligible voting population outside the country.
Participation in elections for those in the diaspora is limited to a small section of the diaspora community thus excluding the larger population outside the country from participating in elections of their country. The laws providing for diaspora voting has limited the category of Zimbabweans based abroad who can cast their ballots from outside the country especially by operation of sections 12 and 13 of the Electoral Act which provides for the instances in which postal votes are permissible.
Over the past two decades the increase in the total number of the Zimbabweans abroad has given legitimacy to demands for greater political rights and representation. This paper explores the role of Zimbabwean diasporas in elections and unpacks the bottlenecks in the legal system that precludes Zimbabweans in the diaspora from participating in elections of their country.
An analysis of the political context in general and to diaspora voting in particular is undertaken. The paper will examine the legal framework providing for or providing against diaspora voting and will proffer possible interventions to address this.
A mixed model of diaspora voting, personal and postal voting, is proposed to drive as much benefit as possible and to ensure as much coverage of countries Zimbabwe diasporas are found as possible. It will conclude by nothing that several processes must be in place to ensure implementation of diaspora voting including amendments to legal provisions that mitigate against diaspora voting as well as building trust in the electoral processes of the country in general and specific diaspora voting.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)