The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has expressed its support for the Proclamation of the 2023 harmonised elections by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The elections, set to take place on 23 August 2023, mark an important milestone in Zimbabwe's democratic process.
In a statement, ZESN commended the government for implementing various electoral reforms, while also highlighting some areas that still require attention.
Under Statutory Instrument 85 of 2023, President Mnangagwa announced the polling day as 23 August 2023, with Nomination Courts set to convene on 21 June to accept applications from political parties and their candidates. These dates serve as crucial milestones leading up to the elections.
ZESN acknowledged the government's efforts in implementing several electoral reforms. These reforms include the ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Governance, and Elections (ACDEG).
Additionally, the amendment of the Census and Statistics Act has facilitated the timely delimitation of electoral boundaries through an accelerated population census. The organization also praised the recent amendments to the Constitution, which introduced the Youth Quota in the National Assembly and extended the Women's Quota by ten years in the same assembly.
However, ZESN expressed concerns about the absence of legal reforms for the upcoming elections. According to Section 157(5) of the Constitution, no changes to the Electoral Law or any other election-related legislation can be made once the election has been proclaimed. As a result, the 2023 elections will proceed without these much-needed legal reforms, as the Electoral Law, namely the Electoral Act, remains unchanged.
ZESN also drew attention to the failure of the Electoral Amendment Bill to pass before the proclamation was announced. This failure means that the constitutional provisions regarding the youth quota and proportional representation cannot be applied or implemented in the upcoming elections. Consequently, these provisions will have to wait until 2028 for their implementation.
The organization also lauded the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for implementing administrative improvements. ZEC now publishes the names of individuals removed from the voter's roll in the government gazette, ensuring transparency. They have also implemented continuous cleaning of the voter's roll, allowing for physical and electronic inspection of the roll, as recommended by observer missions. Another positive change is the mandatory review and update of the voter education manual before each election. Moreover, the posting of the voters' roll outside polling stations has become a standard practice in Zimbabwean elections.
Despite these positive developments, ZESN highlighted several outstanding reforms that it had anticipated to be addressed before the 2023 polls. These include creating a conducive electoral environment that ensures the effective participation of citizens without fear, providing access to the voter's roll, employing tactile ballot papers to ensure the secrecy of the vote, reviewing accreditation fees and allowing long-term observation by domestic observers. Furthermore, ZESN emphasized the need for punitive measures to address violence affecting women's participation in politics and elections, as well as the implementation of the constitutional provision of a 50/50 gender representation.
In light of these concerns, ZESN called upon the government, specifically the Ministry of Justice, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, to incorporate the youth quota in the National Assembly and the women's quota in local authorities. These quotas, which originate from the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Act, are essential in increasing the representation and participation of youth and women in electoral processes.
ZESN also urged the government to comply with the matrix developed on Arrears Clearance and Debt Resolution, particularly concerning electoral reforms. By adhering to this strategy, the government can ensure peaceful and transparent elections. The strategy incorporates essential and accepted electoral reforms from the Reports of the 2018 Election Observer Missions and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
As Zimbabwe moves closer to the 2023 harmonised elections, ZESN's call for comprehensive electoral reforms aims to create a fair and inclusive electoral process that truly represents the will of the people.