Elections advocacy group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has implored stakeholders in the country’s electoral system to align laws with the Constitution to build confidence in voters.
In a position paper titled Building confidence in the electoral processes in Zimbabwe, ZESN cited the abuse of opposition political parties and the bias by the country’s electoral body ZEC as key contributors to lack of confidence.
“Confidence in the electoral processes is a critical feature in sustaining the credibility and legitimacy of elections. When citizens have confidence in the electoral process, they are more likely to participate in elections.
“The lack of level playing field where the incumbent abuses its position to the disadvantage of other contestants. This is evident in the monopolisation of the public media and violation of political party funding rules through the use of state resources for electoral purposes. The apparent bias of the Election Management Body (EMB) and its legalistic and rigid approach to managing electoral matters,” said ZESN.
The network called for the alignment of the electoral law to the Constitution and urged the electoral body to play its role as an independent arbitrator.
“Alignment of the Electoral Law with the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Eight years after the Constitution was adopted, political rights and freedoms are still to be fully implemented in the Electoral Law. This misalignment between the Constitution and the Electoral does not inspire confidence in the electoral process.
“Political referees that have roles in the electoral processes must be impartial, fair and non-partisan. This includes the Election Management Board (EMB) and other key arms of the state such as the security services, the judiciary and the prosecution services. Perceptions of bias and interference to promote or prejudice the interests of political parties wreaks confidence in the electoral process.
“The EMB must comply with the law, but it must avoid an overly legalistic approach that ignores the spirit of the Constitution and the law. It must strive to be flexible, using discretion in reasonable ways that are permitted under the law. The law must be applied fairly and evenly across all political actors and citizens. Any sign of selective application of the law suggests bias which affects confidence in the electoral process,” the network said.