MDC ready for free and fair elections

Friday 26 April 2013
Contrary to the unfounded accusations that it is afraid of elections the MDC T is well prepared for free and fair elections.

Of all the major political parties in Zimbabwe, the MDC is the only party that has set a date for its primary elections. This follows an elaborate process of vetting the candidates to contest in the primary elections.

Those who were disqualified in the first vetting exercise were given an opportunity to appeal against their disqualifications. This exercise saw thirty (30) potential candidates out of the forty two (42) who had appealed, get their initial disqualifications overturned by the leadership of the party and thus allowing them to contest the primary elections set to commence on the 3rd of May 2013.

The MDC had elaborate rules for candidate selection as well as a detailed set of rules on how the selection of the final list of candidates to contest the harmonized elections are going to be selected. In respect of those constituencies where the MDC has no sitting members of parliament primary elections will be held automatically.

In respect of those constituencies where the MDC has sitting Members of Parliament, confirmations will be held first before primary elections can be held. The quorum for the confirmation process to take place in a given constituency is two thirds of the District Councils comprising of leadership from the district ward and branch executive committees. For a Member of Parliament to avoid the primary he or she must be voted for by the majority of the members present and forming a quorum or more.

The MDC also made a resolution that in respect of those constituencies held by women, only women candidates will be allowed to contest in the primary elections. This decision was made so that the party does not reduce the already numerically unpleasing number of women in parliament. In respect of all the members of parliament who came from other political parties like Zanu PF and the MDC Mutambara or Ncube, the party agreed that these shall have the same rights as those enjoyed by all MDC members of parliament and that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of previous political affiliation. This is because these members were whole heatedly accepted and integrated into the MDC T family.

However some political parties notably Zanu PF have not even been able to agree on the rules to govern their primary candidate selection process. Due to the infighting in Zanu PF the three factions are failing to agree on the rules to be applied. Some want the relaxed rules that will permit younger party members to qualify as candidates while the more conservative elements do not want to be contested by these younger individuals and therefore want to shut them out on account of their seniority. This latter group argues that if they are going to be opened to contestation by the younger people then Mugabe must be open to contestation by younger candidates as well!

Despite its preparedness for free and fair elections, the MDC T wants certain fundamentals that guarantee free and fair elections to be put in place before elections can take place. National Executive Committee of the party identified at least five of these fundamental conditions.

First, Zimbabweans recently voted overwhelmingly for the new constitution on the 16th of March 2013. It is now given that the next elections must be held under the new constitution. Therefore the first port of call is for parliament to formally promulgate this constitution into law. President Mugabe must formally assent to this constitution to give it the force of law.

Second, the key legislation that have a bearing on the freeness and fairness of elections have to be amended to make them consistent with the new constitution. This legislation includes the Electoral Act, the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Citizenship Act, the National Security Council Act as well as key legislation that have a bearing on the behaviour of security forces during elections. It will be necessary to bring a piece legislation to deal with some specific aspects of devolution. Thus parliament has to bring about this legislation before the elections can be called.

Third, It is critical that all Zimbabweans who are illegible to vote must be given opportunity to register as voters. The reality on the ground is that for people to register as voters they have to produce proof of residence in the form of a letters from landlords in the case of urban dwellers and letters from traditional leaders in the case of rural dwellers.

However, there is good evidence that some people are being denied these letters by some traditional leaders on political grounds. Further in some cases people are being turned away by partisan officers in the Registrar Generals Offices. In short the residence requirement is now being abused and some people are failing to register as voters. Every Zimbabwean in Zimbabwe stays somewhere in Zimbabwe. Therefore, ZEC must do away with the residence requirement or must devise a system where the registrants themselves make solemn declarations about their places of residence. Until this voter registration problems are sorted out it will be unfair to proceed with an election in which some citizens are excluded from participating.

The government announced sometime last year that the mobile voter registration exercise mostly targeting rural constituencies was going to commence on the 3rd of January 2013. To date no mobile voter registration exercise has taken place as the Registrar General Office is dragging its feet. Yet failure to carry out this exercise will lead to massive disenfranchisement of the rural communities.

The draft constitution allows for voting by persons previously regarded and disenfranchised as aliens by our system. The draft goes on to provide for one month dedicated to the registration of the so called aliens before any voting can take place. The MDC insists that, that period must be respected so that these people are allowed to vote. This issue is a matter of right for some Zimbabweans and cannot be ignored.

Fourth, It would be highly unfair if we were to go to elections without key media reforms which would ensure equal access to the media by all contesting parties during the election process. It is critical to note that the political parties through the negotiations brokers by SADC agreed to embark on these media reforms to ensure a more even playing field in the elections. However, Zanu PF through the Minister of Information Webster Shamu have continuously frustrated these reforms.

Fifth, Chapter 11 of the draft constitution deals with the issues of the security forces and their role especially during elections. The security forces are not supposed to dabble in partisan politics and are supposed to respect the fundamental human rights. They are also not supposed to campaign for or against a political political party or cause. It is critical that these provisions are operationalised before elections can be held. Currently some members of the security forces led by the Commander of the Defence Forces, General Chiwenga are coercing villagers into supporting Zanu PF.

It is clear that the people who are delaying elections are those who are standing in the way of agreed reforms to our election system. It is these people who are truly afraid of free and fair elections.

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