No improvement on Zimbabwe electoral reforms, says ZESN

ZIMBABWE has not covered much ground in terms of implementing electoral reforms to enable the smooth running of credible, free and fair elections due in two years’ time.

This was revealed in a report compiled by the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) which expressed concern over the country’s failure to implement key electoral reforms proposed by various observer missions after the 2018 elections. Some of the recommendations were that government and Parliament should ensure there is a new legal framework to govern elections in the country.

Zesn said there was no movement on a lot of recommendations, a situation which will affect the 2023 polls.

“The legal infrastructure of any given country is critical to the credibility of the polls conducted under it and Zimbabwe is no different,” the report read in part.

“The legal environment is key in creating an enabling environment for democratic elections in Zimbabwe. Subsequent to the 2018 harmonised elections, international and local observers made some recommendations to the government and Parliament of Zimbabwe to reform the electoral legal framework to enhance and deepen electoral democracy.”

“Identified gaps in the legal framework have been a source of electoral contestation of poll outcomes because the current electoral laws fall short of codifying expected democratic principles for managing democratic elections, in other words, the legal framework has inherent weaknesses that make it fall short of standards set by international, continental and regional benchmarks for the conduct of credible elections,” Zesn said.

It said some of the key reforms that needed to be made included a legal framework that would enhance the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

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“If anything, some of the changes are potentially negative to the extent that they are viewed as concentrating power in the hands of the Executive, who are contestants for political power themselves.

“No legal changes took place during the period under review (2019 to 2021) that enhanced voter registration and the voters’ roll. The status quo still obtains. The impact to the principle of equality of votes arising from changes made during an earlier period to the Census and Statistics Act still remains to be seen as the census itself is yet to be conducted,” they said.

Zesn said lack of voter education and election observation resulted in suspicious election results and rigging during the 2018 elections.

“No legal provisions relating to voter education and election observation were enacted during the period under review. It will be recalled that there were recommendations around this issue by international, regional and local election observer missions to the 2018 harmonised elections.”

Zesn also said traditional leaders were important stakeholders in voter education and electoral reforms; and, therefore, there was a greater need to include them in these processes.

“Given the number and content of recommendations by electoral observer missions from previous elections in Zimbabwe, it would have been anticipated that there would be reviews of the legal framework.

“An integrity and ethics committee for the traditional leaders is anticipated by law but is yet to be operationalised. No legal provisions were passed during the period under review to change the legal framework governing traditional leaders in elections.”

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