Electoral Amendment Bill deficient: Zesn


THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has raised concern over proposed changes in the recently gazetted Electoral Amendment Bill, saying the amendments ignored pertinent electoral reforms.

Zesn says without appropriate electoral reforms, the credibility of next year’s polls may be negatively affected.

The gazetted Bill, which seeks to amend the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13], proposes the removal of the driver's licence as proof of identity for electoral purposes; and seeks to disqualify previously convicted persons from contesting in elections. It also provides a timeframe within which a candidate may withdraw from contesting in National Assembly or local authority elections.

In an analysis of the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act, Zesn said the changes only sought to address nominal and administrative reforms, while ignoring pertinent reforms that may have a direct bearing on the transparency and credibility of elections in Zimbabwe.

“The removal of a driver’s licence as proof of identity is purely nominal as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has always declined it as proof of identity for election purposes, for example, during voter registration and voting,” the Zesn statement read.

“Zesn is irked by the fact that the Electoral Amendment Bill is silent and does not address some of the key principles of electoral systems and processes on the conduct and management of credible, peaceful, free and fair elections as enshrined under section 155 of the Constitution which states that: “The State must take all appropriate measures, including legislative measures to ensure that effect is given to the principles set out in subsection (1).... and include peaceful, free and fair elections, conducted by secret ballot, based on universal adult suffrage and equality of votes, which are free from violence and other electoral malpractices”.

“Further, Zesn is concerned by the lowering of constitutional standards as elaborated in the recently gazetted Electoral Bill. The Bill creates a ceiling of thirty percent (30%) of women councillors as part of the quota system for women’s representation.”

The electoral watchdog also said the Bill further violated the Constitution because it contained a provision which would result in a decrease in the women’s quota when a political party fails to present a full list of candidates for the local authority women’s quota.

“The provision makes women losers for their political parties’ negligence, maladministration or incompetence, therefore, Zesn calls on the government to consider a quota system design that ensures the minimum thirty percent (30%) seats are within the existing ward boundaries through a portion of proportional representation and, therefore, ensuring equality in how representatives of the country take up public office in direct election seats as guided by the Constitution Amendment (No 2) Act.

“This will give relevance to the roles that women in the quota play at local authority level, which deals with day-to-day service delivery issues among others.”

The proportional representation women’s quota has remained topical in the country as women feel it increases participation of females in politics.  Political parties have been urged to be gender sensitive.

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