Zimbabwe: Decoding the Zimbabwe Election Process Ahead of August 23 Polls

Voting queue in Zimbabwe (file photo).
2 June 2023

Harare — As Zimbabweans prepare to cast their ballots in 2 months' time, allAfrica takes a look at how the southern African country's electoral process works.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that the country's presidential and legislative elections will take place on August 23. The announcement comes at a time Zimbabwe struggles with a severe economic crisis but we are not focusing on that today.

First, the Zimbabwe government consists of an elected head of state and a legislature. The presidential term lasts for 5 years, and is elected by majority, with a second round if no candidate receives a majority in the first round. The Parliament is bicameral, consisting of the National Assembly and Senate.

Now, during harmonised elections, there will be a number of different elections that will take place at the same time. First, there will be direct elections for the presidency, with the 210 National Assembly seats up for grabs, and the local government seats in both the urban and rural areas.

The election will determine the makeup of the 300-seat parliament and over 2,000 local councils in addition to the presidency. A second round is held if no candidate obtains a majority in the first round of voting for the five-year presidential term.

The majority of voters will cast their ballots on the regular election day. However, certain people, such as military and police officials, unable to cast their votes on the regular election day because they are working, will be allowed to do so at special polling places before election day. Meanwhile, voting by mail will be allowed for diplomats who are not in the country. A number of seats in the Senate, National Assembly, and Provincial Councils will be apportioned using a party-list proportional representation system.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the independent Chapter 12 institution established in terms of Section 238 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe; is responsible for the management and administration of Zimbabwe's electoral processes. It is the responsibility of the commission to conduct polls effectively and equitably. To make sure the procedure goes successfully, it is required to set up all the required logistics to ensure that elections are free, fair, transparent, and perfectly in accordance with the law.

The August 23 vote is expected to be another closely watched affair in a country with a history of violent and disputed elections.

In the run-up to the elections, opposition parties have already accused the ruling Zanu-PF supporters of acts of violence and intimidation, and some human rights organizations have said that Mnangagwa is stifling criticism. The Zimbabwean government and Mnangagwa's governing ZANU-PF party have however, refuted the allegations.

The electoral commission is also responsible for the voters roll, a compilation that lists people who are entitled to vote. Opposition parties have been demanding access to and an audit of the voters' roll, as well as public media access that it says will help level the playing field before the polls. The voters list that has been made available for public scrutiny has drawn criticism from the opposition. In a letter addressed to the commission, Nelson Chamisa's opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) highlighted numerous errors and discrepancies that deviate from constitutional standards, casting doubt on the credibility of the upcoming polls.

But the electoral commission is already looking forward to closing the inspection exercise.

"The voters' roll inspection exercise has been extended to 1 June 2023. ZEC is calling upon members of the public to visit inspection centres where they indicated they will vote at only, and not at any inspection centre," ZEC said in a statement.

Chamisa is anticipated to pose a serious threat to Mnangagwa. In spite of the Constitutional Court rejecting Chamisa's allegations of election manipulation, he barely lost to Mnangagwa in 2018.

A presidential runoff election, if necessary, was also set out for October 2 after the announcement through a government gazette. Mnangagwa is running for re-election after being elected president in 2018 following the military intervention that toppled the late former president Robert Mugabe in 2017. The southern African nation has only had two leaders since it gained independence from white minority rule in 1980.

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