New electoral act to bar cops from polls

zesnHARARE - The Election Resource Centre has commended fresh reforms to the Electoral Act speeding up the release of election results and barring police from interference in voting in future, but said the devil is always in the implementation.

The three parties in the GNU agreed to amend the Electoral Act so that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declares presidential election results not more than five days after the day of voting to avert a repeat of the 2008 scenario when election results were released after five weeks.

The proposed amendments would also bar police officers – who in the 2008 poll were accusing of manipulating disabled or illiterate voters to cast their ballots in favour of Mugabe – from “taking part or interfering with the electoral process beyond maintaining law and order.”

Amendments would allow the recently established independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to warn election candidates, election agents or parties implicated in acts of political violence and to set up special courts to try such cases.

Zimbabwe’s last electoral authority – which the MDC has said was a rathole of CIO officers – took more than five weeks to announce the results of a March 2008 presidential poll that gave Tsvangirai victory but not enough votes to assume power.

The ZRC said the realization and apparent consensus by parties to the coalition government, on the need to reform both the constitutional and electoral frameworks was an important step towards normalizing Zimbabwes fouled political environment.

“While in the past, good laws have been developed and promulgated, the problem with Zimbabwe might not have been entirely about obnoxious and restrictive laws in existence, but has more to do with a bad political culture shown by political players,” ZRC said in a critique of the Electoral Acty amendments. “This culture negates and chooses to ignore even laid down rules and regulations, at times, in pursuit of selfish individual or group desires.

“It is such a political behaviour by politicians which has left Zimbabwe with a shameful label of disrespecting the rule of law, abuse of human rights, anarchy culminating in conflict-ridden political engagements at both national and international level.” ZRC said it was hoped that through the proposed reforms to the Electoral Act, necessary reforms will be undertaken to redefine civilized political engagements. The transitional authority offers an opportunity to set new parameters that would guide the nations political conduct and interaction, the election watchdog said.

“These ongoing legal and institutional reforms are important renovations before Zimbabwe holds another election expected at the conclusion of political reforms. However for all these reforms to be successful, the main political actors in the country must cultivate a culture that gives respect to the rule of law. It would indeed be a betrayal of the people, if political actors make good laws on which they will be the first to disregard,” the critique said.

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