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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Electoral battleground: Voters' roll rigmarole
    Zimbabwe Democracy Institute
    July 26, 2013

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    Zimbabwe’s March 2008 harmonized national elections (simultaneously holding presidential, parliamentary and local government elections) showed that the country has capacity to hold relatively democratic elections, yet the June 2008 presidential run-off election where the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) deployed widespread violence and intimidation also proved that elections without choice are a reality in Zimbabwe.

    This paper focuses on the voter registration exercise run by the Registrar General of Elections under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which ended on 9 July 2013. The objective is to understand the transparency of the process, how the process was done by the election management bodies, the significance of conducting a credible voter registration process in the holding of democratic elections in contested transitional societies such as Zimbabwe and the environment under which the voter registration process was undertaken as well as the credibility of the election management bodies and their workers in the administration of this critical component of the electoral cycle.

    The research is informed by the role played by ZEC and the Registrar General of Voters (Tobaiwa Mudede) in the 2008 disputed polls, the security sector influence and subsequent electoral, legal and personnel reforms that have taken place under the inclusive government formed in February 2009 when Zanu-PF joined hands with the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) following the disputed 2008 presidential election run-off.

    The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute argues, based on available evidence, which as Zimbabwe prepares for the 31 July 2013 elections, the problematic, partisan, and militarized ZEC secretariat that presided over the 2008 sham election remains intact, now serving newly appointed commissioners. Among ZDI’s objectives, working with other partners in the pro democracy movement, is the attainment of a democratic Zimbabwe. The objective of this paper is to examine and present major political implications for Zimbabwe’s next general election if ZEC and the Registrar General of Voters fail to conduct a credible and therefore democratic voter registration process that will ensure that all citizens who want to participate in the elections are given an opportunity to do so.

    Informed by lessons of the failed democratic transition in 2008 organized by the unchanged and entrenched ZEC, this paper proposes a robust audit of the voters roll to the satisfaction of all Zimbabwe interested in the holding of free and fair elections. It’s a pre-emptive paper for the counter strategy for the pro democracy movement as we seek to break away from ZEC electoral shenanigans of the past and chart ways for possible successful democratic transitions via elections.

    The voter registration exercise and the roll that should guide the coming elections are so critical due to the shifting of election strategies from overt violence to technical manipulation of various electoral processes with the voters’ roll manipulation being the new battle ground for attaining political hegemony with limited use of coercion. ZDI has produced this paper because we think that elections are a possible vehicle in transition to democracy given the authoritarian rule Zimbabwe has been grappling with for the past three decades.

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