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Proposed electoral changes retrogressive, says Zesn

THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has dismissed the proposed electoral changes as retrogressive and a reversal of past progressive electoral reforms.

Government has announced plans to amend the Constitution in a bid to transfer the registration of voters from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) back to the Civil Registry Department. Moreover, the proposed electoral changes seek to revoke delimitation responsibilities from Zec, proposing a return to the former system where the Delimitation Commission was entrusted with  electoral boundaries.

Zesn said the move would compromise the independence of Zec by allowing separate government bodies to perform roles directly linked to the commission’s duties. Section 239 of the Constitution mandates Zec to prepare, oversee the conduct of elections and referendums in Zimbabwe, register voters, compile voters’ rolls, delimit constituencies, conduct and supervise voter education as well as accredited observers for elections and referendums.

 “All these proposals revert to the pre-2009 system and in Zesn’s opinion, removing such integral processes from Zec are both retrogressive and a reversal of past progressive electoral reforms,” the electoral watchdog said in a statement.

“This further compromises the independence of Zec by allowing separate government bodies to perform roles directly linked to the commission’s duties. This jeopardizes the commission’s stewardship of elections. The Constitution has already been amended twice, in the short span of ten years, with Amendment No. 2 alone introducing 23 changes. Zesn believes there should be restraint in continually or heavily altering the Constitution. Stability and continuity of Zec in executing the 2013 roles is of great necessity.”

 Zesn proposes that instead of stripping of its powers, the government should strengthen the commission’s independence and capacity.

“Zesn implores the government to revisit proposals submitted by Zesn and several CSOs in the previous electoral cycle, among these the need for Zec’s independence to be enhanced, Zec to be accessible to the public and adopt open data policies in order to gain public trust and confidence, the enhancement of equal media coverage of elections and access to information,” the electoral watchdog said.

 “Effective enforcement of prohibited political conduct during elections; strengthening of the provisions on results management to enhance transparency; reviewing the Electoral Act to align with constitutional provisions, expansion of provisions relating to voter education and election observation; inclusion of mechanisms that increase women, youth and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) representation and participation in decision-making and effective electoral dispute resolution mechanisms among others.”

NewsDay

https://www.newsday.co.zw/local-news/article/200024957/proposed-electoral-changes-retrogressive-says-zesn

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