18 July 2013

Zimbabwe: ZEC Urged to Fight for Election Postponement

Photo: IRIN
Zimbabweans vote (file photo).

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is being urged to lead the way in seeking an extension of the elections due in less than two weeks time, because of the controversy, turmoil and chaos the process is already marred by.

An independent election monitoring group, the Election Resource Centre (ERC), said this week that "the processes leading to the date have been mired in controversy and turmoil, threatening the credibility of the next poll." The group called on ZEC "to take the lead in demanding and requesting for the postponement of the poll."

In a statement, the ERC listed the main issues that will ultimately lead to more chaos, if the elections are held as planned on July 31st. This includes an "incomprehensive voter registration exercise compounded by a contested voters' roll which remains shrouded in secrecy." The group also said that the special voting period that ended this week was "fraught with irregularities," and warned that Zimbabwe faced "further shame and embarrassment" over the full poll just two weeks away.

"If ZEC goes ahead to press for a July 31st election, when all signs point to the fact that it is ill‐prepared to conduct a credible election, there is a likelihood that the agitation and chaos during the special voting process, where police details almost turned riotous, will be replicated on a bigger scale on the actual polling day as eligible voters will not accept being denied the right the vote. On its own, ZEC's lack of preparedness is a security threat that can spawn instability in the country and reverse all the gains that Zimbabwe stands to benefit from the conduct of a free and fair election," the ERC said.

McDonald Lewanika, the Director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, agreed with the ERC position, telling SW Radio Africa that calls for a postponement must be supported.

"Based on evidence they (the ERC) has put on the table, there is a legitimate case for calling on postponement of the polls," Lewanika said.

He explained that ZEC "clearly is not ready for elections," warning that the conditions are not conducive for a credible result.

"This election is one in which we are being marshalled towards because of judgments by the Constitutional Court, not because the country is ready. We have always argued that the elections are not supposed to be a matter a time, but a matter of process. Right now, not enough has been done in terms of processes, so expecting a credible election is like expecting a rose to grow out of concrete," he said.

Lewanika added that ZEC should be urged to approach the Constitutional Court, arguing that the government, as the main authority of when the elections will be held, cannot be trusted.

"I think it is a waste of time to exert pressure on government... cabinet meetings have been postponed indefinitely, so there is no platform for a decision to be made," he said.

He added: "Constitutionally they (ZEC) have a responsibly to deliver free and fair elections. They can go to the Constitutional Court and say: 'Under prevailing conditions, we do not feel we can carry out our mandate effectively and deliver free and fair elections'."

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