Zimbabwe has held a series of elections that have largely failed the credibility test owing to a number of factors.
The country goes to the polls in 2023 amid calls for eligible voters to register and turn out in their numbers on voting day and ensure they defend their vote.
According to the Election Resource Centre (ERC) the following issues must be addressed as a panacea to free, fair and credible polls.
Public Broadcaster and Media Coverage: All political parties must be granted equal media coverage by the public broadcasters and publishers. This ensures that citizens have access to information on all political parties and candidates contesting in elections as supported by the electoral laws. The media plays an important role in helping citizens to hold elected officials accountable thus access to information by voters and equal access to the electorate by parties and candidates is important and must be objective.
The Conduct of Traditional Leaders: As per the dictates of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Traditional leaders must not further the interests of any political party or candidate or in any way participate in partisan politics. Compliance with the law is of paramount importance in order to ensure a balanced political and electoral environment. Traditional leaders should, instead, facilitate equitable access to communities by all parties canvassing for support and ensure that the voter has access to information necessary to make an informed decision at the polls.
Independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC): - In administering its constitutional mandate to oversee elections, ZEC must be impartial and independent. ZEC’s activities, decisions and roles MUST not be influenced by anyone. More so, there ought to be transparency and accountability (responsibility to justify actions or decisions) to citizens, political parties and independent observers. Ensuring verifiability (demonstration of accuracy beyond reasonable doubt) and inclusivity (providing equal access) of processes will enhance public confidence in the Commission. These processes extend to voter mobilization and education, ballot printing, results transmission and political parties and civil society engagement.
Conduct of The Security Services: Security services must be professional, respect the rule of law and ensure that the electoral and political environment remains conducive for free and fair elections. The security services must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by the Constitution, (Constitution 211 (3).
Election Dispute Resolution (Mechanisms): There is a need to create accessible and functional mechanisms that ensure that electoral disputes are resolved, strengthening confidence and ensuring the credibility of electoral processes. ZEC, ZRP and ZHRC must ensure compliance with criminal and electoral justice systems including fair investigation and immediate redress of complaints and reports of violence. The mechanism of Multi-Party Liaison Committees must be decentralized to lower levels from the current national and provincial tiers.
Conclusively, voter registration should be complemented with the implementation of electoral reforms.