via Bulawayo24 NEWS | New law criminalises unofficial election results 25 August 2014
Zimbabwe’s new electoral law assented to by President Robert Mugabe last week will now criminalise unofficial announcement or publication of poll results.
The announcement of electoral results has been an area of contention in Zimbabwe’s notoriously disputed political playfield.
Following the inconclusive 2008 elections, whose first round was won by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, albeit coming just short of the constitutional requirement to assume power, MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti was charged with treason for declaring Tsvangirai the duly elected leader of the country.
Any people or political candidates who unofficially declare general election results before they are officially announced by the Chief Election Officer risk a “level six fine, a one-year jail-term or both” under the amended Electoral Act.
Section 66 A of the Electoral Act, according to the government gazette published last Friday, has been repealed and substituted.
“Section 66 A unofficial or false declaration of results prohibited…subject to Sub-Section (3), any person who purports to announce the result of an election as the true or official results or purports to declare any candidate to have been duly elected before an electoral officer, acting in accordance with this Act has announced the result of that election or declared a candidate to have been duly elected in that election…as the case maybe, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both such a fine and imprisonment,” read the gazette.
According to the new law, any person who unofficially announces number of votes accumulated by any party or candidate shall also face a one-year jail-sentence.
“Subject to Sub-Section (4), any person who, with intent to deceive or to discredit the electoral process in any election, falsely…..report or announces the number of votes received by a candidate or political party in an election or declares any candidate to have been elected in an election….shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level six or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one-year or both such fine and such imprisonment,” the notice reads.
However, the Act does not prevent individuals disclosing the results for the purporses of a court petition regarding a poll result.
“Sub-Section (1) shall not be construed as preventing any person from reporting the number of votes received by a candidate or political party in an election, where the report is based on polling station returns and constituency returns from the election concerned.
“Sub-Section (2) shall not be construed as preventing any person from making any allegation regarding the result or conduct of an election in or for the purposes of an election petition,” added the notice.