Equal participation in elections is a fundamental pillar of democracy, ensuring that citizens from all walks of life have an equal opportunity to engage in the political process. However, high nomination fees present a significant hurdle to achieving this goal.
In Zimbabwe, the issue of exorbitant nomination fees has sparked concerns about the exclusion of marginalized groups and their limited access to political representation
In a united front, seven Civic Society Organizations (CSOs) have presented a petition to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), calling for an immediate revision of the exorbitant election candidate nomination fees. The fees, currently stipulated by Statutory Instrument 144 of 2022, stand at US$20,000.00 for presidential candidates, US$1,000.00 for parliamentary candidates, and US$100.00 for Proportional Representation party lists for Parliament and Provincial Councils.
The CSOs argue that the current nomination fees present a significant barrier to political participation, particularly for marginalized groups such as young people, women, and persons with disabilities. Recognizing the importance of inclusive electoral governance, the CSOs demand an urgent downward revision of the fees for the upcoming 2023 General Elections, reverting to the rates utilized during the 2018 General Elections.
These rates were set at US$1,000.00 for presidential candidates and US$50.00 for Constituent Members of Parliament.
Furthermore, the CSOs call for future nomination fees to be determined through consultations with citizens and stakeholders, ensuring affordability and sensitivity to gender, youth, and disability concerns.
They emphasize the need for ZEC to engage with the Parliament of Zimbabwe and relevant government line ministries to ensure adequate funds are allocated to the commission, ultimately removing or significantly reducing the financial burden on prospective candidates.
Highlighting the systemic obstacles faced by marginalized groups, the CSOs stress that the exorbitant nomination fees hinder their political aspirations. Young people, women, and persons with disabilities encounter challenging social and economic conditions, which make the fees prohibitive. Factors such as high unemployment rates and limited access to liquidity, especially foreign currency, further exacerbate the difficulties faced by these groups.
The petition, signed by prominent CSOs including WELEAD Trust, Magamba Network, Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD), Youth Decide Zimbabwe, Junior Court Club, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, and Accountability Lab Zimbabwe, underscores the urgency to address the issue. Their collective efforts aim to ensure equal opportunities for participation in the political landscape, fostering inclusive representation and enhancing democratic processes.
In line with the CSOs’ call for accessible electoral governance, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) position paper highlights the significance of equal participation in elections, particularly for the youth.
In the paper, ZESN emphasizes that high nomination fees act as a deterrent to youth engagement in the political sphere, restricting their ability to pursue leadership roles and diminishing their representation.
The position paper underscores the need for equitable access to political processes, emphasizing that young people possess valuable perspectives, energy, and innovative ideas that contribute to the nation’s development.
By reducing nomination fees, Zimbabwe can create an environment that fosters youth participation and ensures their voices are heard in shaping the country’s future in line with the constitution and electoral act.
Constitutional and Electoral Act Provisions:
The Zimbabwean Constitution and Electoral Act are key legal frameworks that underscore the importance of equal participation in elections. The Constitution upholds the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and the right to participate in public affairs. It enshrines the rights of all citizens to vote and to stand for elections, ensuring that no one should face barriers or exclusion based on their economic circumstances.
The Electoral Act provides guidelines for electoral processes, emphasizing the need for free, fair, and transparent elections. It outlines the procedures for candidate nomination but does not specify the exact fees. However, the Act does mandate that nomination fees should not impede or undermine the principle of equal electoral participation.
High nomination fees represent a significant setback for equal electoral participation in Zimbabwe. These fees create barriers that limit the ability of marginalized groups, particularly young people, women, and persons with disabilities, to actively engage in the political process.
ZESN’s position paper highlights the urgency of addressing this issue and calls for a revision of nomination fees to foster inclusivity and equal opportunities for all.
The Constitution and Electoral Act further affirm the importance of equal participation in elections, emphasizing the need to remove impediments that hinder the principle of equality.
By taking steps to reduce nomination fees, Zimbabwe can pave the way for a more inclusive and representative democracy, empowering citizens from all backgrounds to play an active role in shaping their nation’s future