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position on the call for elections
Election Support Network
March 24, 2010
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a network of 30 nongovernmental
organisations promoting democratic elections in Zimbabwe has noted
pronouncements by senior politicians on the holding of elections
in 2011. These calls for elections come amid the constitutional
reform process, which has the potential to alter Zimbabwe's
political landscape. These developments have given ZESN the impetus
to call for minimum conditions for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.
There is need for concerned efforts to address a number of outstanding
issues that have a bearing on the conduct of democratic elections.
ZESN urges all Zimbabweans and key stakeholders to start not only
preparing for elections but to call also for critical reforms now.
of the GNU seemed to provide space for reforms yet substantive reforms
have not been realised. ZESN is of the view that there are basic
issues that need to be addressed if Zimbabwe is to have a free and
fair election. In this statement we provide a summery of issues
that the government, civil society and Zimbabweans need to take
cognisance of if we are to have democratic elections.
ZESN urges key
stakeholders to start preparing for elections but recalling that
there are pertinent reforms that should be instituted as the country
prepares for these elections and the referendum. Outlined are some
of the key reforms that the network envisages as the minimum conditions
for a free and fair election.
Electoral Commission (ZEC):
ZESN has continuously expressed concern about the running of elections
by Zimbabwe's election management body. The capacity of ZEC
to efficiently and effectively run elections has been questioned.
Over the years, civic society and political parties have queried
the independence of ZEC as it has consistently failed to be accountable
to the electorate. Previous experience has shown that ZEC does not
have the adequate human and financial resources to efficiently and
effectively run elections.
The recent appointment
of the chair of the commission, Justice Simpson Mutambanembwe is
a welcome development but ZESN is concerned about the indications
that he will be based in Namibia. This is a disturbing issue as
Zimbabwe prepares for elections and his presence on the ground would
enable better preparations for elections.
that the election management body needs to be capacitated and resourced
to improve its ability to manage elections efficiently and effectively.
ZESN continues to advocate for the creation of a truly independent
election management body that includes commissioners and secretariat
that people can trust in order to protect the integrity of the ballot.
ZESN is concerned about the state of the voters' roll which
is an important component in the conduct of free and fair elections.
ZESN has repeatedly called for the cleaning of the voters'
roll in order to rectify errors that have been noted over the years.
Thus an imperfect voters roll can disenfranchise the electorate.
ZESN has repeatedly called for the removal of the voter registration
process from the Registrar - general's office to ZEC.
ZESN proposes that the voters' role be overhauled and the
country adopt the biometric voter registration method, which includes
photographs of the voters in the roll.
ZESN is concerned about an electoral environment in which POSA
are still operational and work to reduce freedoms of association,
assembly as well as restricting media openness. ZESN's long
term observers have noted incidents of violence, intimidation and
harassment in some areas. The safety of human rights defenders and
activists remains an issue of concern as this curtails the oversight
function of civil society. Our observer's reports show continued
politicization of food aid and agricultural aid on partisan lines.
These developments are inimical to the creation of an environment
that fosters an atmosphere conducive for the conduct of democratic
It is also imperative to put in place institutional, security and
legislative reforms before the next elections. Some of the issues
include the removal of police from inside the poling station and
from assisting voters. Assisted voters should be allowed to choose
a friend or relative to assist them. In addition, the electoral
act should also specify a timely period in which election results
will be announced. The constitution should enshrine the timeframe
for the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.
it is worrying that while the country is signatory to a number international
and regional protocols that govern the conduct of elections, these
have not been domesticated to make them enforceable. Furthermore,
ZESN urges Zimbabwe to sign the African Charter on Democracy and
recognition in Article 19, of the GPA
of the importance of the right to freedom of expression and importance
of the media in a multi party democracy, ZESN notes slow progress
in the implementation and operationalisation of these prescriptions
agreed to in this document. ZESN recognises the important role played
by the media in elections and therefore re-imphasises the need for
significant and timely reforms to the Broadcasting
Services Act and AIPPA and the promotion of media pluralism.
Election observation is a critical element in the conduct of free
and fair elections thus there is need for reforms that provide for
the safety of local and international observers. ZESN is concerned
about the "cherry picking" of observers in the past
elections. In addition, the role of inviting observers and other
election related functions should fall under the election management
body. Adequate numbers of observers need to be accredited early
and deployed to all areas of the country for them to observe the
elections. This brings to fore the need for early invitations to
all stakeholders interested in observing the election so that the
pre and post election environment is adequately observed.
In light of
the previous experiences and concerns, ZESN recommends that the
election be supervised by regional and international bodies such
as the United Nations and African Union.
ZESN believes that for elections to be free and fair there is need
for transparency in all processes of the elections, which include
among others results management, transparency in the processing
of postal votes, inclusion of the Diaspora vote, the review of the
voting rights in the Citizenship Act and the provision of privacy
and secrecy to special needs groups such as the elderly and "assisted
With a view
of improving future electins, ZESN proposes that reforms are a matter
or urgency and imperative before elections are held. The present
environment though relatively calm does not provide a conducive
environment for the holding of democratic elections. ZESN reiterates
its position of having substantive and meaningful reforms to the
architecture and operations of elections in Zimbabwe. There is need
for wholesome electoral reforms that will create a new culture of
transparency, inclusiveness, fairness and openness to ensure that
the outcome of the election is legitimate and acceptable
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