Govt unveils broad electoral reforms

Source: Govt unveils broad electoral reforms | Sunday Mail (Top Stories)

Lincoln Towindo

A provision for the electronic transmission of Presidential election results that allows for the swift release of final result tallies is being considered by Government as part of a broad electoral reform package.

Under the current legislative regime, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has up to five days to announce results of the Presidential election.

Authorities are, however, looking at ways to further reduce the time between polling and the announcement of results.

The Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Political, Electoral and Legislative Reforms, which is chaired by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, has identified over 20 reform priorities drawn from reports of election observer missions.

The reform priorities range from recalibrating the legislative framework, election administration systems, voter registration rules, drawing up of constituency boundaries and political party finance and registration.

All the envisaged changes to the electoral law are expected to be in place by June next year.

A report from the inter-ministerial taskforce seen by The Sunday Mail details plans to “conduct a study in other jurisdictions” to assess the feasibility of adopting a system that allows for the electronic transmission of results to the National Results Centre.

“The recommendation for the expeditious transmission of results to the Command Centre (National Results Centre) is already being implemented; for instance, in the 2018 harmonised elections, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission used a faster procedure that led to the result forms being transmitted directly from District Command Centres to the National Results Centre,” the report says.

Previously, the results went through the ward, constituency, district and provincial command centres before being transmitted to the National Results Centre.

The Electoral Act provides for election results to be announced within five days, which is considered to be in line with international best practice.

Violence, which claimed six lives, erupted on August 1 last year — two days after voting — after MDC-Alliance supporters alleged there were delays in releasing election results in order rig the voting tallies.

The Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the violence blamed the MDC-Alliance for the mayhem.

Political Parties

A study will also be commissioned to consider the possibility of formally registering political parties to promote accountability.

Presently, political parties are only required to inform ZEC of their existence.

The feasibility of Diaspora voting, including the possibility of auditing finances of parties that receive funding from the State, will also be explored.

“There is no universal consensus in the country regarding the registration of political parties . . . (the) Political Parties Finance Act indicates that political parties are free to regulate their affairs as they deem fit . . . However, Zimbabwe is willing to study the legal framework for registration of political parties in other countries to come up with appropriate recommendations,” the report adds.

Authorities also believe that while the Electoral Act ensures transparency, credibility and security of the postal voting system (Section 71), there is need to review the administration of the process to further protect the secrecy of one’s vote.

Other proposed reforms include notifying voters who would have been placed on the exclusion list so that they can regularise their registration status.

Overdue

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) chairperson Mr Andrew Makoni welcomed the proposals.

“The proposed reforms, which are being talked about by Government, are some of the reforms that ZESN has also made in model law that we have submitted to the (Parliamentary) Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,” said Mr Makoni.

“We are hoping that they will look at the recommendations we have made and perhaps adopt all of them or the majority of them.

“It is good to hear that Government is considering reviewing our electoral law and it is also good to hear some of those reforms they are talking about because those were some of the suggestions that were made by observers, both international and local observers.”

Election Resource Centre (ERC) executive director Mr Tawanda Chimhini said:

“Reforms are always welcome and when Government is taking the initiative to reform, that is most welcome,” said Mr Chimhini.

“There has been a commitment made that reforms will be implemented.

“However, we encourage Government to engage all stakeholders on these reforms before Cabinet drafts them.”

An inclusive consultative approach was necessary to get buy-in from stakeholders, he said.

 

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