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Laws Amendment Bill, 2007: An analysis by the Zimbabwe Election
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)
November 28, 2007
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For an election
to be free and fair the entire process must be free and fair and
the body running the election must perform its duties efficiently
and in a scrupulously impartial manner.
If passed, the
Laws Amendment Bill will significantly improve some of the current
election laws. Some proposed amendments, however, do not go far
enough, and some important areas are not addressed. Additionally,
other laws impeding the holding of free and fair elections will
also need to be overhauled.
of any electoral reforms depends on how the electoral laws are applied
and enforced in practice. Legislation alone cannot prevent malpractices.
The best remedies against them are an impartial, efficient and active
Electoral Commission; rigorous observation and monitoring of all
stages of the electoral process; and impartial and professional
enforcement of the laws by law enforcement agencies.
past elections suggests that, at best, implementation of reforms
will be patchy. For electoral reforms to be effective, a climate
must be created before, during and after elections in which voters
will believe that they can vote freely to a change government through
the ballot box, and that the elections will be conducted fairly.
It will take time to restore voter confidence in the electoral process.
It is therefore essential that there should be a sufficient period
between the coming into operation of reforms and the elections.
Only when voters see the new laws being enforced will their confidence
be restored. The political parties contesting the elections will
also need to test the efficacy of the new laws and satisfy themselves
that they are being properly implemented.
These are some
of the important points made in this report in relation to the proposed
The method of appointment of Commissioners should be changed
to reassure political parties and the electorate that Commissioners
will be impartial.
As well as army,
police and prison service personnel, intelligence officers should
also be excluded from the Commission's staff. The management
of elections must not be dominated by persons with military backgrounds.
should each be given areas of responsibility.
This Court should be given jurisdiction to resolve disputes
before the election has taken place.
The judges appointed
to this Court must not display political bias.
of Wards and Constituencies
Before finalising boundaries, it should be compulsory for
the Commission to receive and take into account representations
about proposed changes.
of voters' rolls
There should be an independent audit of the electoral rolls.
The Commission should decide on which observers to accredit
and there should be no Ministerial veto power.
Commission must accredit sufficient numbers of local and international
observers to allow comprehensive observation of elections.
also request to send a special pre-election mission team to assess
the pre-election environment.
Instead of placing emphasis on controlling the programmes
of voter education conducted by civic organisations, the Electoral
Commission should establish joint structures with civil society
to plan and implement a shared voter education strategy. Only by
full involvement of civic organisations will it be possible to run
an effective voter education campaign.
should be entitled to receive foreign funding for voter education
The Commission should be required to disclose the total
number of ballot papers printed for each election.
and physically handicapped voters
voters should be allowed to be assisted by friends or relatives
rather than electoral officials.
The Electoral Commission should be given the power to establish
a system that allows Zimbabweans living outside the country to vote
by post if they are unable to return to Zimbabwe to cast their votes.
coverage of elections
The maintenance of the de facto broadcasting monopoly of
ZBH makes it imperative that this sole public broadcaster behave
in a professionally impartial manner when covering elections.
must draw up as soon as possible the regulations governing reporting
by public broadcasters to ensure that it gives fair coverage of
the election. It must have effective mechanisms to monitor observance
of these regulations and to take effective measures to prevent continuing
next elections more broadcasters should be allowed to start to operate
so that the public can receive a greater diversity of information
will also need to establish effective mechanisms to monitor the
conduct of the print media and to take steps to prevent continuing
breaches of its obligations to report fairly on the election.
party controls the sole provider of daily national newspapers and
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act has brought about
a complete lack of diversity in the print media. These restrictions
should be removed and other newspapers should be allowed to commence
operations without delay.
In past elections there have been repeated allegations
of political intimidation.
The Bill introduces
new provisions specifically criminalising a range of practices,
which will constitute the offence of intimidation. An intimidatory
practice will also constitute an electoral malpractice.
For these provisions
to be effective they will need to be properly enforced by the law
of political intimidation are made to the Electoral Commission,
the Commission should be given powers to direct the Commissioner-General
of Police to ensure that an urgent and proper investigation is conducted
into the complaints.
of state funds for electioneering
The Amendment Bill does not address this problem, and this
is a serious defect since it allows the ruling party, by default,
to exploit an unfair advantage.
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