THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) must be given the sole responsibility of registering political parties to avoid name contestations among political actors as witnessed in the opposition MDC.
BY VENERANDA LANGA/NQOBANI NDLOVU/BLESSED MHLANGA
Electoral watchdog, Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) made the suggestion in a draft Electoral Amendment Bill proposal handed over to Parliament yesterday.
To ensure independence, Zesn also suggested that Zec should be answerable to Parliament and empowered to postpone elections at polling stations where there are fears of disputed results.
Zesn also proposed amendments to the Electoral Act to allow registered voters based outside the country to take part in postal voting alongside those that are unable to attend voting due to employment, security services and other reasons.
Zesn chairperson Andrew Makoni said the Bill should be seen as a step towards implementing much-needed electoral reforms to break the cycle of electoral disputes.
“We believe this will significantly improve the electoral landscape and remove electoral contestations,” Makoni said during the Zoom platform launch.
“It will take us a step further in implementing the much-needed electoral reforms. We need to break the cycle of continuous or cosmetic amendment to the electoral system which at the end of the day does not address challenges to our electoral cycles.”
The Bill was submitted to Parliament through the Justice and Legal Parliamentary Committee acting chairperson Joshua Murire who emphasised the need for free and fair elections.
“We are fully geared to ensure that this Bill goes through all processes in Parliament, and eventually gets signed by his Excellency … to pave way for well-managed election processes in Zimbabwe. We hope that future elections will be guided accordingly,” Murire said.
The Bill speaks to the need to ensure Zec’s independence while also providing for appeal mechanisms, among others, as well as placing control of all electoral-related functions on Zec.
“There is no requirement in the (current) legislation in place for registration of political parties and we have seen how those are affecting those parties themselves with litigations all over …,” Makoni said.
Zimbabweans are witnessing the implosion of the opposition MDC, fighting over MPs and councillors as well as party name.
“The Bill will also introduce a new section 39B which empowers the commission to postpone an election at any polling station if it has reasonably determined that it is not possible to conduct a free and fair election at that polling station.
Any postponement should be to a time within the period prescribed for holding elections by section 38(1) of the Constitution,” part of the highlights of the Bill read.
On election dispute resolution mechanisms, the Bill proposes the alignment of the “Electoral Act to its new status as a special division of the High Court rather than an independent court.”
After receiving the Bill, committee member Innocent Gonese said it was very important for Parliament to ensure an end to contested elections.