Transparency obliterates rigging suspicions in Zimbabwe says Political Analysts

Electoral reforms in Zimbabwe are a thorny issue especially when it comes to the ballot paper. In Africa the secrecy surrounding where the ballot paper is printed and by who has been the preserve of the ruling parties and this causes tension with rivals, and frustrates the sense of free and fair elections.

Speaking on Identities Umhlobo Zvatiri television show Felix Chiroro said, “It has been crucial for political parties to know the information surrounding the ballot paper.’’

 It is believed that the printing of ballot paper should be transparent enough to allow all political parties and civil society to “supervise” the printing to limit suspicions of rigging.

According to the Constitution, Chapter12[239] it mandates the Zimbabwe Election Commission[ZEC] to prepare for, conduct and supervise elections and to ensure that those elections are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law. However with the concerns that have been raised by political parties it is quite clear that the rule of law seems to have been ignored by ZEC.

 Gift Ostallos Siziba, a citizen speaking on the same program said, “The printing of the ballot paper should be done transparently because providing transparency in an election helps establish trust and confidence in the process as voters may have means to verify the results.’’

 According to the European Union Election Observer Mission, the printing of the ballot paper in Zimbabwe lacked transparency since it was a once-off event and did not provide the possibility of effective scrutiny of what was being printed.

Over the years, ZEC has come under fire for printing too many ballot papers without giving concrete reasons for that. According to research the International best practice ballot papers can be in excess at 5% to 10%.  “During the 2013 harmonized elections, printed excess of 35% more than the number of registered voters was noted,’’ said Siziba.

Furthermore, the issues surrounding ballot ink should not raise concerns among political parties participating in an election. Apart from the ballot paper itself, the source of the ink used should be open to contestants to eradicate all suspicion of rigging.

 Chirere said that during the 2013 harmonised election, a lot of speculation circulated on social media that the ink used by ZEC was imported from China and was made in a way that it would move from certain check box to another check box.

According to International standards the election body must be neutral from external factors. However the involvement of the Ministry of Justice and Legal Parliamentary Affairs in approving regulations adopted by ZEC seemed to have undermined the autonomy of the commission.

Therefore to avoid future problems ZEC should increase transparency and effective communication. The issue of electoral reforms should also be dealt with to avoid conflicts before, during and after elections.

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