The high cost of running elections in the country has come under the spotlight with a poll lobby group accusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of inflating figures ahead of by-elections set for next month.
By RICHARD CHIDZA
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) in a report released this week argued that Zec’s claims that it will cost $36 million to run 18 by-elections to be held on June 10 was questionable. It said costs of running elections were both fixed and variable.
“Zec’s core costs for election administration presumably include personnel costs and operational costs, variable and fixed costs, integrity and core costs. Zimbabwe remains in the dark as to how the election authorities allocate their costs and indeed what priorities they focus on,” the group said.
However, Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told NewsDay in an interview that the $2 million per constituency figure the commission released last month was an “estimate”.
“It (the figure) was just an estimate, the actual figures are with our accounts department and I do not have them at hand. The only difference is that we are now doing voter registration previously done by the Registrar-General’s Office,” Justice Makarau said.
“Even then I would not want to believe that the cost of running the elections would skyrocket four-fold.”
According to ERC, Zec used about $628 000 to run the 2013 polls in each constituency which would translate to an average of $22 per voter. But this will balloon to some $70 per voter for the forthcoming by-elections.
“The 2013 harmonised elections were run on a minimum budget of $132,4 million. When divided by 210 constituencies, the figure is $628 571 per constituency. This constituency figure is then divided by the number of registered voters to find the cost of the election per voter. The same is done using the $2 million per constituency figure which was recently pronounced by Zec,” ERC said.
“While on the high side, it is quite consistent with the regional figures. The regional highest is Botswana costing $28 per voter as of 2010. How it becomes more expensive to run a House of Assembly election alone as compared to the harmonised election remains mysterious,” said the group providing an example of the Midlands’ Mbizo which will go up to $95 per voter for the coming by-election.
These figures, ERC argues, would if translated into the cost of running a general election in Zimbabwe would mean the country will require almost half a billion to conduct the process.
The ERC called on Zec to be transparent with its election running cost structure, adding the commission “must consider new methods of election management”, among them biometric voter registration, information communication technology-based voter education and electronic-based voting.
South Africa, with a population almost four times the size of Zimbabwe, used just under $50 million for its polls in 2000 and required $122 million for the 2004 elections, according to the report.