via Only election cowards fear reforms, NGO – New Zimbabwe 30/09/2015
ELECTION Resource Centre (ERC) director, Tawanda Chimhini has rebuked politicians who continue to delay the operationalization of new electoral laws as defined in the current Constitution, adding this was the work of those fearing defeat.
Chimhini further warned the country will not fully enjoy the new democratic dispensation ushered by the new laws if authorities failed to test their effectiveness way ahead of 2018.
“As a democracy, we need to grow and the electoral reforms that we are proposing are not a threat to anybody,” he said.
“These are recommendations that will open up space for all political actors to get involved in elections, for Zimbabweans to actually fully participate in elections.”
Chimhini was speaking during a Monday evening debate hosted by a local radio station.
He had occasion to unpack the contents of a recent petition to parliament against “piecemeal” electoral reforms co-sponsored by his organisation and 17 others.
His remarks could be an indirect reference to the current Zanu PF led government, whose ministers are the ones who are supposed to introduce new laws for debate in the house.
President Robert Mugabe’s opponents and civil society activists fear the country’s painstaking journey to attain full democracy has been undermined by the delays.
Chimhini said electoral reforms should not be perceived as a menace by politicians, adding those that are opposed to them are in fact, a threat to democracy.
The ERC chief said electoral reforms were nowhere near being a determining factor on who romps to victory during elections, insisting “they enhance space for citizens to be heard”.
“We don’t want to get to 2018 with the kind of challenges that we faced with our electoral law ahead of the 2013 elections,” Chimhini said.
“Here is an opportunity because parliament is already aligning our laws to the Constitution. There is a huge opportunity to now focus on the local law.”
The controversial July 2013 poll was marred by a myriad electoral flaws chief among them inadequate voter education, a chaotic voter registration process and a muddled voters’ roll which was further held away from opponents by government.
Equally, the special voting process among the country’s security organs was chaotic while the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was also forced to conduct business on a shoestring budget.
The opposition is also up in arms with ZEC which it says is under heavy manipulation by state security services.
Chimhini reiterated the obtaining post-electoral period should be fully utilised to correct past malpractices in line with international best practice.
“It is imperative that we begin to talk about the laws that govern our elections.
“We cannot talk about these things in the electoral period because it becomes too late. Laws must be put up in place in time to allow for them to operate,” said Chimhini.
The ERC is a non-governmental election watchdog pushing for the dissemination of credible electoral information to potential voters and the upholding of inclusive democratic and electoral processes at all tiers of society.
It has pledged intellectual support to ZEC, the government arm running all state elections in the country.