THE European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) is ratcheting up pressure on Zimbabwe to institute reforms to its electoral system after its final report called into question the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and the reliability of the presidential results it announced in the July 30 elections.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The mission, which last week presented its final report of the highly-contested elections (the first since former President Robert Mugabe was forced to resign after a de facto coup in November last year after 37 years in power) yesterday met the Parliamentary Legal Committee to see if there was political appetite to implement reforms before the 2023 elections.
In its final report of the July 30 polls won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa by 50,6%, against his rival Nelson Chamisa’s 44,3%, the EU EOM said Zimbabwe’s highly-contested July 30 presidential election results were not “verifiable” or “traceable,” casting doubt on their reliability and accuracy.
Mark Stevens, the deputy chief observer said Parliament, through its committee systems, had a key role in implementing the necessary reforms.
“It has been clear to us that going forward, Parliament is a key institution in ensuring legislative reforms, and the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda mentioned the possibility of forming an ad hoc committee to ensure they look at the electoral reforms that can be implemented,” Stevens said.
“It would be very interesting for us to hear from your perspectives if there is political will for political reforms, and putting in place effective mechanisms for discussions and dialogue on the potential changes.”
The EU sent a 140-member delegation to monitor elections in the southern African country for the first in 16 years.
The poll was seen as crucial to lifting the country out of international isolation and opening up the economy to international capital, but the killing of seven civilians in an opposition demonstration post the election drew parallels with Zimbabwe’s dark past under Mugabe.
Analysts have said while the international community had shown willingness to engage the Mnangagwa administration, the government had to show commitment to making the necessary reforms.
Stevens said some of the areas that the EU would like to see changes included timelines for resolutions of electoral disputes and electoral cases before the courts, the work of Zec and how the commission could be truly independent, as well as management of results, transparency and verification of results, media reforms and improvement in voter registration.
“It is also important to have disclosure of campaign financing and expenditure, as well as constituency boundaries so that they are of equal sizes, inclusivity issues, dialogue and resolution of conflict. We are interested to hear from Parliament whether there is political will for those reforms,” he said.
Thomas Goldberger, the United States chief of Mission and Charge de Affaires in Egypt, who was part of the EU delegation, said it was imperative to implement electoral reforms before the 2023 elections.
“We are interested in Parliament playing this role of ensuring there are political reforms. It is not up to us to dictate reforms, but we will offer our assistance if requested.”
Chairperson of the PLC, Jonathan Samukange, said his committee would study the EU final report and also give their recommendations to the Ministry of Justice and Zec.
“We welcome the idea of an ad hoc committee on electoral reforms, and we want it to be a non-partisan committee to ensure they come up with reforms that are in the best interests of the people,” he said.
MDC Alliance MP and member of the PLC, Kucaca Phulu, said it was imperative to throw away political party jackets when looking at the recommendations in the EU report so that Parliament could take advantage of Section 149 of the Constitution, which gives citizens the right to petition the institution to ensure there were electoral reforms.
The EU, in its final report, concluded that the July 30 polls fell short of international standards, saying the figures provided by Zec had many anomalies and inaccuracies.