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gives in to SADC critics on poll law
Dumisani Muleya, Business Day (Johannesburg)
FACED with pressure
at home and abroad, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has introduced
a second set of electoral reforms in a month, abolishing the controversial
mobile polling stations and setting up a tribunal to settle poll disputes.
The electoral bill
is the second set of poll regulations introduced by Mugabe (pictured right)
ahead of national elections due in March. They are also an attempt by
Mugabe to meet electoral standards set by his peers in the Southern Africa
Development Community (SADC).
On September 10 the
government published the Zimbabwe Electoral Commissions Bill, which went
through its first reading in parliament on Wednesday.
If enacted the bill
will give Mugabe powers to appoint key members of an "independent" commission
to oversee all elections, limit the voting days to one and open the counting
of votes at polling stations.
The new bill is also
aimed at limiting the controversial postal votes, which the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed were used by the ruling party
to steal the last general election .
The MDC yesterday
dismissed the reforms as "piecemeal and cosmetic", saying they did not
address fundamental electoral problems. It said the changes fell "far
too short" of SADC principles governing democratic elections.
The country's civic
groups have also complained about a lack of safeguards to ensure the independence
of the electoral commission, and fear that it might be biased.
Last week the groups
told a parliamentary committee that they were worried that the electoral
commission did not adequately address issues relating to electoral violence
and conflict resolution.
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