2 June 2012

Zimbabwe: Polls in Egypt, Lesotho - Lessons for Nation

WHEN the announcement that Lesotho's prime minister of 14 years was stepping down, after failing to win an outright majority, many Zimbabweans could not help but wonder if this was possible in their own country.

Two elections, one in Lesotho and another in Egypt, were held recently and all brought about a new wave of democracy and leadership change, that only Zimbabweans can imagine and wish for.

A massive 25 million people cast their votes in Egypt and the smoothness with which the election was run can all but give Zimbabweans hope that their elections can be held in a similar fashion.

Critical to the elections in Egypt was that for the first time the country allowed its Diaspora to vote, something which Zimbabwean authorities sneer their noses at.

"We have eight million people outside Egypt and for the first time they were allowed to vote," Hassim Bashiri, an official at the Egyptian Embassy in Harare said. "Maybe because it was the first time something like this happened, only less than 600 000 voted in that manner."

Egypt, unlike Zimbabwe, was able to call in foreign observers, leading to a somewhat credible election.

The southern African country has since the 2002 presidential election been loath to invite foreign observers, accusing them of having an agenda against President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.

Closer to home, Lesotho's transition showed that the country was seriously transforming into a modern democracy.

Observers from the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), say they were impressed with the election and that Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from the small mountainous country.

"What impressed me was the involvement of civic society," Emma Chiseya, from Zesn, said. "Civil society and the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) worked together to come up with a manual on voter education."

In Zimbabwe, civil society must get permission from the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) before carrying out voter education, something that has always caused friction between the two sides.

Chiseya, who marvelled at the transparency of elections in Lesotho, said observers were allowed freely into the country, compared to Zimbabwe, where they were expected to pay a fee, which sometimes could be restrictive.

She said in Lesotho they had a biometric voters' role, compared to Zimbabwe, where the registrar general was against providing an electronic copy of the voters roll.

As Mugabe pushes ahead for elections this year, it remains to be seen whether he will allow for reforms considering the risk that transparency could ultimately push him out.

But with changes of guard across the continent, it is only a matter of time before reforms are implemented in Zimbabwe.

Egypt allows online voter-registration

An element that could make Zimbabweans go green with envy is that Egyptians can register to vote over the internet, making voter registration a less than cumbersome process.

Critics of the Zimbabwe's voter registration exercise often complain that it is murky and the voters' roll is in a shambles.

Past researches have revealed that the Zimbabwean voters' roll is not updated, allowing "ghost" and unregistered voters to cast their votes.

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