THE ZIMBABWE Electoral Commision (ZEC) says it has managed to reduce the budget for next year’s general elections and the constitutional referendum after scrapping the delimitation of constituencies which was expected to cost millions of dollars.
The commission had proposed a total budget of $220 million for the two plebiscites, factoring in the redrawing of electoral boundaries.
But authorities announced a reviewed figure of $192 million Friday after government decided to cut costs and stick to existing constituencies.
Mathematically, that means the delimitation exercise would have gobbled US$28 million.
The electoral panel held a meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga to answer questions concerning its readiness for both the referendum and the general polls.
The referendum has been brought down to US$85 million from the initial $105 million, while the general election cost fell from US$115 to US$107.
“There is no delimitation this time around,” ZEC acting chair Joice Kazembe told a news conference in Harare. “The 210 constituencies will remain like what they are now. Even in wards, we will use what is there now.”
Also addressing journalists, Chinamasa revealed that government will begin voter registration on January 3, adding the exercise will require an immediate $21 million which he said will be provided by the Treasury.
Although government is known to be bankrupt, officials said it will folk out three quarters of the total budget. But they did not specify where the balance will come from.
It is understood though that Cabinet is contemplating to approach the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which sponsored the constitution-revision exercise.
In his 2013 national budget, Finance Minister Tendai Biti allocated the electoral body $50 million – but it was only on paper. He admits he is yet to look for the money.
Zimbabwe is currently pushing electoral and constitutional reforms ahead of the balloting that President Robert Mugabe says should be held in March without fail.
But interminable wrangling between his Zanu PF party and the two formations of the MDC has delayed the referendum by almost two years, and consequently, the elections.
While the MDC parties have endorsed the constitutional draft crafted by a parliamentary panel, Zanu PF has rejected it demanding the deletion of a number of provisions including the widely-supported devolution of power from central government.
The party has also protested the slicing of presidential executive powers.
A new committee tasked with finding common ground on the divisive issues is currently deadlocked.