Zimbabwe: ERC Urges Parking of Looming By-Elections After Deadly Protests

Photo: The Herald
ZEC Chairperson Priscilla Chigumba.
23 January 2019

Poll based NGO, Election Resource Centre (ERC) has urged authorities to abandon upcoming by-elections in parts of the country, arguing the environment was still too tense for Zimbabweans to exercise their choices freely.

This follows a recent wave of intense rioting by citizens who were angered government's decision to hike prices of fuel by more than half.

While the trail of destruction left by protesting citizens was enough worry, government responded with the deployment of armed soldiers and police who fired live ammunition at protesters with independent estimates by rights groups putting the death toll at 12.

Hundreds have been arrested countrywide with the majority now languishing in remand prison.

But as the country's criminal courts get busier, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), on its part, is preparing to conduct three local authority by-elections between January and February 2019 with the earliest set to be held in Chitungwiza Municipality Ward 24 on the 26th January 2019.

The ERC has called for the abandonment of the elective process until the situation normalised.

"While these by-elections are in accordance with the law," said the poll based group, "the ERC notes that the current political environment in the country makes it impossible to hold a credible, free and fair election to the satisfaction of the constitutional and international principles of democracy.

"... To expect citizens to go the polls to freely express their will in the current environment will be far-fetched.

"The ERC stands firmly against the conduct of elections for the sake of it."

The group said public elections were an opportunity for voters to take part and place hope their participation will impact positively on how they will be governed.

The process, according to ERC, must be exercised in a conducive enough environment for a free expression.

ERC singled out Chitungwiza as a volatile spot following the recent violence waged by both protestors and security agents in the dormitory town.

In the long term, ERC suggested "the parking of all by-elections until all necessary and collectively agreed reforms, administrative and legislative, have been instituted to the full satisfaction of all election stakeholders".

"The current pursuit of holding elections for the sake of elections should be abandoned," said the NGO.

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