MINIMUM CONDITIONS FOR RUN-OFF OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Pursuant to the announcement of the presidential election in which no candidate had secured a majority of the total votes cast there will be a run-off election. The date of this election is still to be announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).Â Â The two candidates eligible for the run-off election are Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of 38 non-governmental organizations, accredited as domestic election observers in the 2008 Harmonised Election calls for conditions conducive for ensuring that the run-off of the presidential election represents the expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe.Â The Network calls on all Zimbabweans who are registered to come out in their numbers and exercise their democratic right to vote.Â
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Date of election
ZESN calls for the second round of the presidential election to be held within the confines of the laws of Zimbabwe.
Section 110(3) of the Electoral Act states that a run-off election must be held within 21 days after “the election”.Â This is interpreted to mean that thus 21 days from 2 May 2008, when results were announced.
An election held after the 21-day deadline will be in breach of the Electoral Act, ZESN calls on ZEC to expeditiously announce the election date.
Prior to the 29 March Election, ZEC stated that it was fully prepared for the election, including the eventuality of a run-off. It indicated that provision have even been made for the printing of ballot papers. ZESN therefore calls on ZEC to demonstrate this preparedness by holding the election in accordance with the law.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Conducive Environment
An environment conducive for the holding of a free and fair election must exist not only during polling, but also in the pre- election and post-election periods.
There must be freedom of assembly and association. Political parties contesting an election must be able to campaign freely. They should be able to hold political meetings and rallies and those wishing to attend these must be free to do so.
Voters must be permitted to make free political choices and must not be forced to vote for a particular political party. Voters must also be assured that they will not face persecution before or after they vote because of their electoral preference. Members of political parties are not permitted to use violence and intimidation to try to force voters to vote for them or to prevent voters wishing to vote for a particular party from doing so. It is the duty of the law enforcement agencies to enforce the laws that prohibit violence and intimidation and to do so impartially and not on a selective and discriminatory basis.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Political Violence
ZESN calls for zero tolerance on the prevailing political violence. We call upon political leaders and Service Chiefs to denounce political violence publicly and sincerely. A high level of political tolerance is therefore called for. Furthermore ZESN urges the police to act swiftly and decisively in dealing with the perpetrators in accordance with the law.
In addition we demand that all victims of political violence have access to humanitarian and medical aid. Those people assisting victims of political violence should also be protected.
Â We note with concern the establishment of torture camps (dubbed political bases) and we call for the immediate disbandment of these camps.
Detailed reports on the continuing post-election violence are available from Zimbabwe Peace Project, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Access to Media and use of state resources
We note that in the run -up to the 29 March elections, the state media did not give fair coverage to opposition contesting parties (see MMPZ reports). The SADC Principles thus provide that there must be proper access to media by all stakeholders, during electoral processes. Ahead of this election, there must be freedom of expression and access to the media. All political parties and candidates contesting in the election must have proper access to the media in order to communicate with the electorate. The public media should provide voters with balanced and accurate information about the political contestants in the election. Contesting political parties should desist from using the public media as propaganda machinery.Â
We have observed with distress the arrests and harassment of independent journalists and we demand a cessation of such acts.
Furthermore the ruling party should not make use of state resources to gain an unfair advantage in the election. ZESN is concerned with the proliferation of arms of war and the use of unregistered vehicles by perpetrators of political violence.
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â Transparency of ZEC
ZESN calls on ZEC to exercise its functions without fear or favour, demonstrating the utmost level of transparency and accountability.
ZEC should avail and publicise information on noted areas of concern such as:
The date, numbers and distribution of postal ballots
The number of registered voters per constituency
Locations of tabulation centres
Number and names of polling stations
Number and distribution of ballot papers, boxes
Collation, tabulation and verification process.
Release of results timeously
Â There is also need to ensure that ZEC is provided with all the necessary financial and human resources to enable it to perform its functions in accordance with the law. ZEC’s capacity may also be increased through technical assistance from SADC Electoral Commissions. In addition, ZEC should ensure that its polling officials are not persecuted before, during and after polling.
ZEC should announce, in advance a timetable of when it anticipates the release of results of the Presidential run-off. This will avoid the concerns and perceptions arising out of the delay of the announcement of the presidential election.Â
6.Â Â Â Â Â Â Procedures
It is essential that the conditions prevailing prior to the 29 March poll should serve as minimum requirements for this election. Section 110(3) of the Electoral Act requires the run-off election to be held in accordance with the Electoral Act.Â Consequently voting and other procedures obtaining on the 29th of March should remain the same and continue to be used. Thus votes should be counted at polling stations immediately after the closing of the poll; the results of polling station counts must be posted outside polling stations; polling station results will be collated at constituency level and transmitted to the Chief Elections Officer at the ZEC National Collation Centre for the “verification and collation” exercise in the presence of party agents and observers. Â
A facility should be put in place to ensure that voters who are internally displaced during political violence are able to vote in the run-off. Â
While ZESN notes improvements preceding the 29 March poll, ZESN urges further reform. In addition to displaying V11 and V23 forms after counting and collation, copies of these documents should also be availed to the candidates or their agents, irrespective of their presence at the polling station or tabulation centre. Â
Tabulation and collation of results should be done transparently, in the presence of partly agents and observers. Results should also be released in a timely, transparent and accountable manner as this will definitely help reduce tensions following any election.Â Any adjustments to procedures of 29 March should only be made where there was previous failure to adhere to the provisions of law.Â
Any changes to procedure would require an amendment of the Electoral Act.Â At this stage any amendment would have to be under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act. The use of that Act would be highly undesirable and controversial, even if the provisions were fully agreed by both candidates.Â
7.Â Â Â Â Â Â Voter Education
There must be adequate voter education conducted by ZEC and civil society should also be allowed to complement ZEC in this work. Â
8.Â Â Â Â Â Â Observers
ZESN calls for an end to the ongoing physical and verbal onslaught on domestic observers.Â The Network also continues to call for foreign and domestic observation of the election and that observers should come in large numbers. The government should also open more invitations to domestic, regional and international observers. Observers also need to be granted full access to all processes and places. This is important as their presence helps to reassure voters and enhance the legitimacy of the electoral process. It has also been noted that the presence of international observers correlated with the scale of political and electoral violence. Â
The invitation and accreditation of both international and local observers should be extended to cover the presidential run-off and these observers should be deployed on time to observe the prevailing pre-election period.
ZESN urges all registered voters to turn out in numbers to exercise their democratic right to participate freely and peacefully in the run -off.Â
Promoting democratic elections
For commends and further details contact Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)News