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Demand electoral reforms now: Zesn

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BY BLESSED MHLANGA

OPPOSITION parties have been urged to demand for electoral reforms ahead of the 2023 general elections as no effort has been made to ensure that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) becomes an independent body.

This was said by the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn), an independent electoral watchdog, in a recent report where it outlined that there are no tangible electoral reforms to ensure that Zec acted independently.

“The provisions (in the Electoral Act) permitting Executive interference in Zec are still in force,” the Zesn report read.

“According to the inter-ministerial taskforce on the alignment of legislation to the Constitution, the alignment of the Electoral Act to the Constitution is complete. Zesn is of a contrary view and has made submissions to both government and Parliament,” Zesn said.

The electoral watchdog’s comments came soon after the inter-ministerial committee tasked with aligning the Electoral Act to the Constitution announced that it had completed its work, albeit without ensuring that the law asserts the independence of Zec within its provisions.

Zesn argues that the recent move by Zec to call off by-elections just a week after saying it would be running them, shows that the Executive is in control of the electoral management institution.

“In October 2020, the overturning by government of a decision by Zec to lift the suspension of by- elections demonstrated that the institution could not make decisions independent of approval by the government and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,” Zesn said.

The other major issues that Zesn raised over Zec’s independence were that its regulatory authority continued to lie in the hands of the parent ministry (Justice), which is also headed by a minister who is a political player with direct interest in electoral outcomes.

In its draft Electoral Amendment Bill, Zesn called for far-reaching reforms, which if implemented, will remove the Justice ministry from interfering with the operations of Zec.

“The electoral Act does not empower Zec to make and approve electoral regulations. Zec still needs to get approval from the Justice ministry for it to introduce regulations for use by the institutions’ staff,” Zesn said.

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