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Parliamentary Monitor: Issue 4
Parliamentary Monitoring Trust (Zimbabwe)
September 05, 2011

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Election 3/2012! YES/NO?

Is Zimbabwe ready for another poll in about seven months from now? The word to be underlined in READY. What does it mean to say a country is ready for an election? This question was put to the fore again last week when President Robert Mugabe declared, when addressing the Zanu PF National Consultative Assembly, that: “We cannot go beyond March next year (before another election). I will definitely announce that date. It does not matter what anyone would say.” President Mugabe then went on to attack Copac for “delaying” the constitution making process. The President’s declaration is understandable, since he was pushing for elections this year though it was clear that the constitution making process would take long before finalization. Zanu PF resolved, at its annual congress in Mutare last December, to hold elections this year. It is clear from the President’s declaration that the constitution making process has to be speeded up or there could be polls without a new supreme law for the country. This then brings in a new dimension. Should elections be held under the current situation and environment, would they be deemed free and fair? If not what has to be done. Waiting for the conclusion of the constitution making process may divert attention from other process which could be undertaken concurrently with the constitution making process. One such process is voter registration. In Zimbabwe voter registration is an ongoing process thus there is nothing that bars political parties and civic organizations from encouraging potential voters to register. Another issue is the cleaning up of the voters’ roll. The Registrar General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede two months ago challenged those doubting the current voters’ roll to come forward with proof. It appears no one has taken the challenge and this silence may mean either no one cares or there is no capacity to prove that the voters’ roll is in shambles.

The recent analyses of the voters’ roll should be taken as the foundation for a proper challenge so that the voter’s roll could be cleaned in time for another election. Then in terms of administration of the election, there has been movement in the right direction in terms of amending the Electoral Act, but it has been pointed out that more has to be done. In fact, the police have challenged some of the amendments and it is yet to be found what balance would be struck so that the issue of security is addressed and at the same time ensure that the polls are free and fair. Another issue is voter education which is one grey area in our electoral history. Voter education entails emphasizing the secrecy of the ballot box, how to mark the ballot papers and the freedoms that citizens enjoy. It is thus important that while the main focus is on a constitution that would address the sticking points on elections, the building blocks such as voter education, registration, cleaning of the voters’ roll and amendment of the Electoral Act are also acted upon to ensure free and fair elections. What is important at this moment is to make sure that there is support to build confidence in our elections. Elections are important in a democracy in that they are a mechanism to approve or otherwise a party/candidate’s policies or reward/punish an incumbent for what s/he would have achieved since the last elections. It is only when the electoral processes are clear, transparent and the electorate have confidence in them that this can be achieved.

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