8 November 2012

Zimbabwe: ZEC Tightens Electoral Code of Conduct

The electoral code of conduct for political parties and candidates has been tightened as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Government work to foster tolerance ahead of harmonised elections scheduled for next year.

ZEC acting chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe told The Herald that the proposals to amend the provisions were made by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs in consultation with the electoral body.

She said principals to the Global Political Agreement endorsed the amendments that are now part of the amended Electoral Act.

The amendments were enacted into law in September this year.

"This amended provision on the code of conduct for political parties and candidates adds in provisions to strengthen the code by elaborating on the need for political parties and candidates to strive for a culture of political tolerance," she said in written responses.

"Further political parties and their members and supporters as well as candidates and their supporters must accept that others have the right to present their political principles and ideas in a peaceful environment without fear of intimidation or reprisals."

Mrs Kazembe said the amendments also elaborated on what was prohibited.

She said the code also implored political parties to disseminate accurate information on electoral processes and not to announce election results before they have been declared official by an electoral officer. Mrs Kazembe said ZEC had been engaged with political parties for their buy-in in strengthening the code.

"There are also new provisions imploring political parties and candidates to respect the role of the media in disseminating news and to give the media access to their rallies as well as taking reasonable steps to ensure that journalists are not harassed or intimidated by their representatives or their supporters.

"The commission is still considering the various inputs it has received from political parties before drawing up proposals for further amendments to these provisions, which proposals will then be submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, which ministry is responsible for administering the Electoral Act," she said.

Mrs Kazembe said a number of matters that were considered as prohibited in the code of conduct were criminal acts that attracted penalties as prescribed by the Act for those who fail to comply.

Apart from the code of conduct, she said, the Act introduced specific provisions aimed at dealing expeditiously with cases of politically motivated violence and intimidation.

She said the courts could impose special penalties for those convicted of an offence involving political violence or intimidation.

Some of the penalties prohibit the offender from campaigning or taking any further part during the particular election period.

If prohibited, the offender may not during that election era attend or address any meetings of a political nature at which more than three people are present.

The offender may also not encourage, urge or persuade any other person to cast his or her vote in the election for a particular political party or candidate.

However, the person is entitled to vote or to be voted for. The country is expected to go for polls by March next year.

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