ELECTORAL stakeholders, including the opposition, have raised concern over the secrecy surrounding the Electoral Amendment Bill 2022 announced by government on Tuesday saying they were not consulted.
Government announced on Tuesday that Cabinet had approved the principles of the Electoral Amendment Bill 2022.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the amendments included the timeframe within which Parliament and local authority candidates could withdraw from contesting in an election and incorporation of the 30% women’s and the youth quotas and amendments of the definition of proof of identity, among others.
The proposed electoral reforms are at variance with proposals made by the opposition and civic groups.
“In terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, one has to be a citizen to qualify as a voter. Accordingly, only valid passports or national identity cards will be required as proof of identity,” she said during a post-Cabinet briefing.
Independent election watchdogs raised concern that Mutsvangwa was silent on electoral reform demands by the opposition parties and civil society organisations.
Election Resource Centre programmes manager Takunda Tsunga said it was also disturbing that the proposed Bill had not been made public.
“It’s unfortunate that the Minister of Justice has not made the proposed Amendment Bill public before tabling it before Cabinet. In terms of inclusivity of electoral stakeholders, the document must have been made public for comments.
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“While we wait for the full document, we hope the proposed amendments address electoral stakeholders concerns that have been negatively impacting free, fair and credible elections,” Tsunga said.
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy secretary for elections Ellen Shiriyedenga said the Bill was not a product of stakeholder consultation, hence it could not be endorsed.
“It will be premature to comment on a document whose contents are unknown. The Bill is not a product of stakeholder inclusion, hence the generality of Zimbabweans cannot validate its contents at this stage,” Shiriyedenga said.
People’s Unity Party leader Herbert Chamuka said the Electoral Bill 2022 should pave way for the demilitarisation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
“We want real reforms and among them, no soldier should be employed by the electoral body. There should also be a remedy when Zec declares a wrong winner. We don’t want a situation like what happened when the body declared Dexter Nduna (Chegutu West MP) a parliamentary winner, when in fact he had lost,” said Chamuka.
Efforts to get a comment from Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana were in vain as his mobile number was not reachable.
Last week, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa launched a blueprint titled Pre-election Pact on Electoral Reforms or PREPARE.
The document demands universal suffrage allowing the right to vote, credibility of the voters roll, real-time and credible results and transmission system.
It also calls for integrity of election processes, political freedoms, media access, security of the vote and the voter.
The European Union observer mission made 23 recommendations after the hotly contested 2018 elections, including the alignment of the Electoral Act to the Constitution and ensuring Zec’s independence.
In May this year, the EU noted that there has been very little progress in its follow-up assessment on the implementation of the recommendations. In July this year, the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), a grouping of 16 political parties which took part in the 2018 elections, released a declaration recommending electoral reforms ahead of the 2023 polls.
Among some of the recommendations was the need for Zec to announce election results within three to five days.
Polad also wanted all election-related legislation to be consolidated in the Electoral Act including stopping police from disrupting or interfering with door-to-door campaigns and gatherings of 50 or fewer people.