In its preliminary response to the bill, which has been welcomed by some sections , the Zimbabwe Election Support Network said that it has, “critically assessed the draft Electoral Amendment Bill gazetted last month and suggested further improvements.”
“The Electoral Amendment Bill addresses a number of issues which ZESN believes are essential for the creation of a conducive environment and the leveling of the playing field for credible free and fair elections. At the same time ZESN notes that, even though some of the reforms will significantly improve the current electoral legal framework, the proposed amendments do not go far enough in addressing the creation of a peaceful electoral environment.”
On the proposed provisions in the Election Commission Bill, ZESN said the Zimbabwe Election Commission should be able to implement the rules and structures and should be equipped with sufficient professional personnel, finance and resources so as not to limit its mandate.
ZEC has on several occasions said it is broke and there are also allegations from political parties that the body is infested with members of the despised Central Intelligence Organization.
While the bill has a provision for the availability of the Voters’ Roll in both print and electronic versions in searchable, analysable and tamper-proof format, ZESN said it was concerned with “the continuation of the shared responsibility for the registration of voters, creation and maintenance of the voters’ roll between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Registrar-General’s office”.
It believes such an arrangement decreases accountability and can potentially cause inefficiency.
“ZESN proposes that these responsibilities must be fully given to the ZEC, which has the sole mandate to run elections in the country.”
The Electoral Amendment Bill further makes provision for the creation of permanent polling stations and polling station-based voters’ rolls.
This is now the trend in many parts of the progressive world, but ZESN feels that such an arrangement in a country like Zimbabwe – with a history of post-election violence – could leave voters at the mercy of political thugs.