The Election Resource Centre (ERC) notes the press statement issued by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on the 23rd of March 2021.
In the statement, the Commission notifies the public of the resumption of electoral activities following the relaxation of lockdown measures of Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 on 01 March 2021. The Commission also states that the conduct of by-elections remains suspended and this position will be reviewed in due course and stakeholders will be advised.
1. Use of Press Releases to resume electoral activities remains illegal
The ERC observes with concern the continued use of press statements by ZEC to resume and suspend electoral activities. ZEC illegally suspended electoral activities through a press statement on the 7th of January 2021 and resumed operations on the 23rd of March 2021 using the same modus operandi, perpetuating an illegal way of administering electoral processes.
The ERC maintains that while ZEC has a constitutional mandate to administer elections, the law does not give the body discretion to arbitrarily start and stop processes without a court order.
2. Resumption of electoral activities devoid of electoral reforms
The resumption of electoral activities must be preceded by the implementation of administrative reforms by the Electoral Commission. The press statement issued by ZEC does not outline what has been done to institute reforms and any plans in place to implement administrative reforms that are key in restoring public trust and confidence of stakeholders in the management of elections. Accordingly, ZEC should invest in actively pursuing long outstanding administrative reforms. The future of elections rests in reform, a position already adopted by the Government and only awaiting operationalization.
3. Relegating stakeholders to consultation
While the resumption of electoral activities is unprocedural and illegal, ZEC has also relegated the role of stakeholders to being “advised” accordingly. The Commission in advising stakeholders of the review process for the resumption of by- elections has defied the notion of inclusivity. The statement by the Electoral Body suggests a negative attitude towards inclusion of stakeholders thereby making ZEC a law unto itself and unaccountable to citizens and stakeholders.
4. By elections
According to the statement released by ZEC, by-elections remain suspended. No explanation is given why a selective approach has been taken in lifting the suspension of electoral activities.
ERC reiterates that ZEC should pursue a Court order to postpone elections as a product of exhaustive consultations with stakeholders. In addition, should the order be granted to suspend the by-elections, the ensuing suspension period should be effectively used to institute long awaited reforms. By-elections without reforms pose a threat to credibility and acceptability of electoral outcomes.
The ERC therefore recommends that;
- ZEC submits itself to the Constitution and best practices in administering electoral processes during the COVID-19 global pandemic through non selective compliance with legal and regional and international standards that include inclusivity in decision making, transparency in operations and accountability to all election stakeholders.
- ZEC reaffirms its independence by pronouncing itself on the status of by-elections and not just some electoral processes.
- ZEC reaffirms its commitment to holding constitutional and credible elections by outlining a comprehensive roadmap to instituting administrative reform ahead of the resumption of voter registration, other electoral processes and including by-elections.
- ZEC immediately rolls out voter education programmes to citizens in compliance with COVID19 regulations in by-election sites including monitoring the compliance of political parties in campaigning, in line with COVID19 regulations and the Electoral Act.
- ZEC formally invites observers to scrutinize the conduct of electoral processes under COVID19 and the submission of observations to influence credibility of processes.
Source: Election Resource Centre (ERC)