The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has confirmed its plans to enable Zimbabweans in the diaspora to vote in the next general elections in 2018.
The commission’s 2014 needs assessment report, entitled “Identification of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Gaps: The Road to 2018”, was released in December. It says ZEC needs close to $281 million to prepare for and run the next election. But the report adds that this figure is provisional – because of the possibility of inflation and other factors, among them the diaspora vote.
“It is foreseen that the 2018 Election Budget will stem from government with additional support from donors. However, with inflation, changes in the electoral landscape, increases required in staffing allowances, diaspora voting and other such developments, it is unlikely that the budget will remain at the 2013 levels,” says the report.
Zimbabweans living abroad have repeatedly been denied the right to vote by the government of President Robert Mugabe, who critics say is afraid that most of those in the diaspora would support the opposition.
Between three and four million Zimbabweans have fled the country as economic and political refugees, particularly since 2000 when the government cracked down on critics and dissenters and when the economy went into free fall after the land invasions.
According to the ZEC report, the 2013 elections cost $38 per voter. More than two million Zimbabweans cast their ballots.
Currently ZEC has signed two co-operation agreements with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Southern Africa (EISA) for technical assistance regarding voter registration, voter education, establishment of a knowledge centre and stakeholder engagement.
ZEC came up with its first strategic plan in 2009 that culminated in the 2013 constitutional referendum and the general elections, which observer missions described as containing serious flaws.
The 2013 constitution adopted after the referendum expanded ZEC’s powers to include voter registration, which has previously been managed by the Registrar General’s office.