April 30, in five days’ time, marks the first day when the President can proclaim an election date and this should be worrying considering how little has been done so far towards amending the Electoral Act.
Debate on the amendments to electoral laws was postponed to next month, meaning the President can now proclaim a date for elections before any changes have been debated.
This casts a pall on the elections, as there is a real possibility that they can be held under a contested law, where there was almost unanimity that it should be amended.
The country’s legislators had the best part of five years to amend the electoral law, but it is quite bewildering that they had to wait for the last few months before becoming serious about it.
We understand that because of party loyalties, there were some that went out of their way to frustrate the process, but surely more pressure should have been exerted.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has between Monday and July 9 to announce an election date and we urge that he is not in a hurry to do so and wait for all the amendments to be effected before doing so.
Mnangagwa has promised free, fair and credible elections and a widely accepted and undisputed electoral law lies at the heart of that credibility.
Postponing debate on the amendments to the electoral law was ill-advised, as thus is a matter of urgency and Parliament ought to have been recalled for this very important process that speaks right to the foundations of the country’s stuttering democracy.
There is no haste in calling for elections when there are still contested aspects of the environment leading to the polls.
Thus, the authorities need to ensure that they do something now about the electoral laws, before this year’s elections slide into the realm of farcical and are disputed, leading to more uncertainty for the country.
A repeat of the 2013 elections is most undesirable, when former President Robert Mugabe announced an election date without consulting his partners in government and that arguably worsened the economic crisis in the country, whose main facet was the cash shortage and the introduction of bond notes, which have been roundly condemned.
Thus, we urge Mnangagwa to exercise caution and display probity when announcing the electoral dates, with the most advisable thing to do being to wait for the amendment of electoral laws.