Set independent commission for electoral reforms: Zesn

BY BLESSED MHLANGA

IN a push for electoral reforms recommended by a number of elections observer missions accredited to Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) has called for the establishment of an electoral reform committee to see through the changes.

Nearly a year after the polls, small progress has been made towards election reforms and correcting contested areas, particularly regarding the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commissions (Zec) and diaspora voting.

Zesn said it was important to ensure that the independence of Zec was reinforced by giving Parliament a direct oversight of the Commission instead of leaving
it to the discretion of a minister who is a player in the electoral processes.

“Government should establish an all-inclusive electoral reform committee to deliberate on political, administrative and legal reforms that are needed to
enhance the credibility of Zimbabwe elections,” the electoral watchdog said.

Elections observer missions called on government to push for early electoral reforms by aligning the Electoral Act to the Constitution to avoid disputed polls
in 2023.

During the 2018 general elections, the African Union observer mission noted that the Electoral Act, was not aligned to the Constitution, especially around the
contagious diaspora vote, resulting in millions of Zimbabweans failing to vote.

“There is need to align and harmonise the electoral laws to comply with the Constitution. The Electoral Act should be aligned with the 2013 Constitution, in
particular those provisions related to the constitutional right to vote, including postal voting for home-bound voters and those in hospitals,” part of the
recommendations read.

Millions of Zimbabweans in the diaspora, hospitals and prisons were denied their right to vote in the past elections as Zec only extended postal voting to
police and Zimbabweans outside the country on official government business.

The MDC has been fighting to have those in diaspora allowed to cast their ballots at respective embassies across the world, but lost the bid because the
Electoral Act does not provide for that.

The European Union (EU) missions zeroed in on the independence of Zec, saying its independence as provided for by the Constitution was not visible in their
operations.

Zec reports to Parliament through the Justice minister, it also waits for the minister to approve its regulations and key appointments compromising the
integrity and independence of the commission.

“For the independence of Zec, in relation to responsibility for it’s own regulations, voter registration and accreditation of observers, as well as the
required approval of regulations, the mission urges the Zimbabwe government to consider expediting alignment of outstanding aspects of the Electoral Law to new
Constitution,” the EU said in its report.

In a statement, Zec chairperson Justice Priscila Chigumba said the commission had already put together a package for electoral reforms which are yet to be
forwarded to Parliament for debate.

“With regard to electoral reform process, Zec convened an all-stakeholder conference at the conclusion of the 2018 harmonised elections to discuss these
reforms. Zec has since consolidated proposals arising from the conference and included them in the electoral reform package for consideration by the
legislature,” she said.

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