POLLS lobby group the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says it is gravely concerned over apparent delays by authorities in finalising reform of laws regulating elections only months before a crucial plebiscite.
In a statement Tuesday, ZESN challenged Parliament and the Ministry of Justice to “urgently consider the proposed amendments to the electoral laws as further delays will only serve to jeopardize the credibility of the impending 2018 elections.”
“ZESN reiterates its position that the country’s electoral laws are significantly inadequate thus the need for urgent reform to create an enabling framework for the holding of free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
“The network calls upon legislators to put aside political differences and finalise the reform process especially given the imminence of the 2018 elections,” the group said.
Since taking over power last November, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has consistently promised to run a credible, free and fair election.
The government has also invited observers from no less than 46 countries and international institutions including nations previously banned by former President Robert Mugabe.
ZESN said while it recognises some of the proposed amendments which include a provision for the closing of the voters’ roll before nomination, the group demanded full enforcement of current provisions “such as the obligation of the public media to give fair coverage to all political parties and candidates”.
As part of its proposed legal reforms, ZESN wants Parliament to be accorded the “oversight role over” the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) instead the Ministry of Justice, “to ensure that its independence is not compromised by the Executive or any power or authority.”
“Furthermore, executive interference in electoral processes such as its seconding of persons to the Observer Accreditation Committee and in the enactment of electoral regulations must be removed,” the group said in its statement.
ZESN also wants ZEC to make public all procedures in the respect of data management, security and the deduplication process to enhance transparency and stakeholder confidence in line with Section 156 of the Constitution.
“The absence of clear regulations on the management of information captured during the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise compromises the integrity of the entire voter registration process.
“ZESN believes that it is essential for the political players to demonstrate genuine political will to effect electoral reforms which are critical to the creation of an enabling electoral environment,” the group added
“If the country is to hold free, fair and credible elections as pronounced by the President (Mnangagwa), ZEC chairperson and government officials, it is imperative that the Electoral Act is fully aligned with the Constitution well in advance of the impending harmonised election to give adequate time for the implementation of the reforms.”
Parliament is currently considering amendments to the Electoral Act recommended by political parties.