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2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles
recounts go ahead - Bill Watch 16/2008
April 18, 2008
MDC took a court
case to stop the vote recounts that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
[ZEC] scheduled for the 19th April. High Court Judge Guvava dismissed
the case on 18th April, which means that the recount will go ahead
in terms of GN
58A/2008. The recount will start Saturday 19th April at 8am
and will include a recount of all votes cast at all polling stations
in those constituencies. The recounts will take place at counting
centres listed in GN 58A [Note: in some cases these are the same
as the constituency centres of the 29th March elections, but in
some cases different counting centres are being used].
The recounts will involve
votes cast in the House of Assembly, Senatorial and local authority
elections, as well as votes cast in the Presidential Election [although
the Presidential results have not yet been declared]. Candidates,
their election agents and accredited observers are entitled to be
present. The press has reported that about 50 SADC observers will
Lawyers For Human Rights have issued an opinion
that the intention of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to continue
with proposed recounts will be unlawful and in contempt of court.
of Winners after Recounts
ZEC in their
press notifications of the recounts stated that after the recount
the constituency elections officers will declare the new winners
if any. MDC brought an urgent application to stop this declaration
of new winners after the recount, on the basis that the existing
declarations are final in terms of section 66 (4) of the Electoral
Act, which states that the declaration of the constituency elections
officer shall be final, subject only to a reversal on petition to
the Electoral Court. Nothing in section 67A [the new section providing
for recounts] expressly provides for changing the previously declared
result of an election if a recount produces a different result from
the original count.
The court case was dismissed
on the grounds that “the application was not urgent”.
This was not a dismissal on the merits of the applicant’s
[MDC’s] argument. This means that if ZEC does go ahead and
declare new winners and previously declared winners are unseated
as a result, they will be able to challenge the new result in the
in Announcing Presidential Election Results
The MDC applied
to the High Court for an order obliging ZEC to announce the result
promptly. High Court Judge Uchena accepted jurisdiction in the case
and agreed to treat the matter as urgent. Judgment
was given on 14th April and MDC lost the case.
One of the main reasons
that ZEC has given for their delay in announcing the Presidential
winner was that they had ordered a recount in 23 constituencies
and the results of these recounted Presidential votes would have
to be included. That being so, it is difficult to see what reasons
could be given for a further delay once the recounts have taken
Note: two unsuccessful
aspirants to the Presidency, whose nomination papers were not accepted
and whose cases were rejected by the Electoral Court, have now appealed
to the Supreme Court claiming that their constitutional rights have
been violated. There are fears that this appeal could be used to
further delay announcement of Presidential election results.
challenge 60 House of Assembly seats
The MDC has filed election
petitions with the Electoral Court challenging the election results
for 60 House of Assembly seats won by Zanu PF. In these challenges,
the MDC accuses Zanu PF candidates and supporters of vote-buying,
intimidating and interfering with presiding election officers and
other election malpractices as well as there being an undercounting
of its votes in the Parliamentary poll.
Section 182 of the Electoral
Act states that an election petition must be decided by the Electoral
Court within six months from the date it is filed. Section 172 states
that the judgment of the Electoral Court is final in matters of
fact but an appeal on questions of law can be made to the Supreme
Court. Appeals must decided within six months after being lodged.
of Stored Ballot Papers
The press reported an
attempted bomb blast at the Gutu district administrator’s
offices, where the ballot boxes for Gutu South, Central and North
recounts were kept. This heightens concern about the safe custody
of stored ballot papers and related documents.
There has also been concern
expressed about whether there could be tampering with ballot papers
in view of the lack of transparency about storage of ballot papers.
Section 70 of the Electoral Act states that once votes have been
counted at polling stations, ballot papers and related documents
are placed in sealed packets and delivered to the constituency elections
officer for storage in places designated by the Chief Elections
Officer. With so many election petitions before the Electoral Court
even more ballot boxes will now have to be stored for another six
months or more.
Ballot papers and related
documents not subject to a election petition can be destroyed 14
days after the end of the “election period” [Electoral
Act, section 70].
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