THE Elections Resources Centre (ERC) yesterday said Zimbabwe was partially ready for the harmonised elections as the process was implemented without adequate voter education, including a largely enabling environment.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
In their pre-election assessment report produced yesterday, the ERC said yesterday’s elections were characterised by a myriad of challenges, including limited transparency and accountability in election administration.
“A myriad of challenges remains including limited transparency and accountability in election administration, undermined independence of the election commission, intimidation of citizens by traditional leaders and lack of guarantees of no interference by the military,” the ERC executive director Tawanda Chimhini said.
“There are still fundamental gaps which affect credibility, freeness and fairness of the election in Zimbabwe, including that it holds the 2018 harmonised elections on the basis of an Electoral Act that remains unaligned to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Chimhini said the Electoral Act still contained sections which undermine provisions of the Constitution, adding that in May, Parliament only amended sections of the Electoral Act to align it with the constitution, but not all sections were aligned.
“However, the changes fell short of adequacy requirements for free, fair and credible elections as sections undermining the independence of Zec (Sections 9, 12(e), 192 (6) and 40H) were retained. These sections require Zec to seek the approval of the relevant minister before executing their functions when the minister is an interested party when elections are conducted.”
The ERC said the major challenges during the pre-election period included the unavailability of the final voters’ roll on the eve of the election, continued undermining of independence of the electoral commission, limiting of the right to vote to those not in the country and in prisons, limiting of freedom of speech through restrictions in voter education and limited access to administrative processes implemented by Zec.
On access to the media, the ERC accused the State media of continuing to report favourably on behalf of the ruling party and offering opposition parties limited space filled with negative reporting and criticism.
“However, where coverage was concerned, improvements on the part of the State media were noted as they covered rallies of opposition parties although parties mostly in bad light.”
They said the positive issues about the Electoral Act were that State security, traditional leaders, media and civil society were now bound by the same code of conduct, thereby allowing for room for disciplinary action or remedies against unlawful conduct.
“Election campaigns were in full swing even before proclamation of the election date. The campaigns were largely peaceful, exhibited political tolerance and limited hate speech,” the ERC said.
But the ERC said during their audit of the voters’ roll that they noted various inadequacies, adding that the voters’ roll shared by Zec for analysis was not the final roll which was used yesterday during polling day.
“By the eve of the election, the final voters’ roll was still not available to stakeholders.”
The last election was conducted in 2013, with the Zanu PF winning a 61% majority.