The Sunday Mail
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has petitioned Parliament to expedite the amendment of laws to delink the national census from the delimitation exercise in order to guarantee smooth general elections in 2023.
There are also other far-reaching proposed legislative changes that are designed to ensure incident-free polls.
A delimitation exercise is a process through which constituency boundaries are marked. By law, the elections management body is required to draw up new electoral boundaries every ten years, immediately after a national population census.
The next census is due in 2022.
The Commission opines that it cannot seamlessly roll out a delimitation exercise after the population census as electoral boundaries need to be drawn at least six months before the plebiscite.
Zec chief elections officer Mr Utoile Silaigwana told The Sunday Mail that they had approached Parliament to push for a Constitutional amendment for the envisaged changes.
“In terms of the Constitution, the delimitation exercise must be done after the census, which happens after every 10 years,” explained Mr Silaigwana.
“As it stands, the census is supposed to be done in 2022, with the delimitation exercise coming in 2023.
“The period between the census, whose outcome could be released towards the end of 2022 or early 2023, leaves Zec with no time to do delimitation.
“We realised that when the Constitution was drafted, there could have been an oversight by our legislature,” he said.
Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chouda said they will take appropriate action once they have been formally approached by Zec.
“Zec has made a presentation on the need to delink the two (census and delimitation), but they are yet to approach us formally. We are waiting for that,” he said.
Zec has also submitted a slew of other recommended legislative changes.
Some of the proposals, which stem from the 2018 harmonised elections, include the need to refine regulations that govern the withdrawal of candidature for both National Assembly and Local Authority elections.
Zec’s recommendations also read in part: “Unlike in the Presidential election, the withdrawal of candidature for the National Assembly and Local Authority elections was not regulated with regards to the period within which it can be done.
“Some candidates withdrew their candidature late into the election period, thereby affecting the ballot paper design and printing by the Commission, especially for the postal vote.
“The major challenge for the Commission is that the law imposes certain obligations such as bringing the withdrawal of a candidate to the attention of voters and ensuring that the name of the withdrawn candidate is omitted or deleted from all ballot papers before the election.”
Under the current laws, Presidential election candidates can only withdraw 21 days before the election.
Zec also wants Government to separate funding for elections from the Commission’s operational budget.
“It is recommended that funding of elections should be taken as a process, not an event.
“For example, capitalisation of the Commission, in terms of vehicles, office accommodation and other equipment, could have been separated from the funding of the actual election activity to avoid huge financial requirements at the same time,” says Zec.
Further, it is also pushing for a law that stops media houses from endorsing candidates.