By Daniel Chigundu
The joint International Republic Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) observer team have called on the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) to issue a statement assuring the nation that they will respect the will of the people.
Currently, there is a belief in the country especially in the rural areas that the military will not allow anyone who has no military background to rule the country even if they win the elections.
This belief emanates from the previous statement made by the late ZDF Commander Vitalis Zvinavashe and more recently by Englebert Rugeje and Terrance Mukupe that the military won’t accept an opposition win.
Presenting their pre-election assessment report, IRI and NDI said there are still steps that can be taken to ensure the elections are free and fair.
“With seven weeks until election day, there are a number of steps that can be taken to help Zimbabwe make a clear break with its history of flawed elections. Changing Zimbabwe’s electoral trajectory will require pro-active and concerted efforts to instil public confidence.
“…in the spirit of international cooperation, the IRI-NDI delegation recommends that senior officers of the ZDF should make public and unambiguous statements that all branches of the military will loyally serve the winner of this election.
“Military officers and government officials should refrain from any statements suggesting that the military would not accept the outcome of the election. Additionally, the police personnel deployed on election day, while essential for maintaining public order, should not interfere in the process and should follow instructions from polling officials,” said the delegation.
IRI-NDI also recommended that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should release both the preliminary and final voters’ rolls to eliminate perceptions.
“The Electoral Act requires the ZEC to release the final voters and the ZEC chairperson has publicly committed to doing so. However, given serious concerns with the voters roll from past elections, the ZEC should release both the preliminary and final voters roll in an analysable electronic format to all candidates immediately following the completion of the nominations process.
“Various stakeholder raised concerns with the procurement and printing of ballot papers. This process should be transparent to provide the confidence that the proper number of ballot papers are being printed and meet defined technical specifications. The ZEC chairperson has committed to allowing the political parties to observe all aspects of this process, but this must be translated into meaningful observation, pursuant to a dialogue between the Commission and the political parties.
“The amendments to the Electoral Act passed on May 28; vest ZEC with the authority to establish additional polling stations in order to alleviate lines at polling stations with high numbers of registrants. While the creation of new polling stations to reduce lines and more efficiently process voters on election day is a welcome development, concerns exist about the ad hoc establishment and late announcement of new polling sites, limiting opportunities for parties to designate party agents. The Commission should publicly commit to using the authority provided by the new legislation to establish only sub-stations in places where polling sites have too large a number of registered voters,” said the report.
Other recommendations include providing equal access to media and information for opposition candidates and citizens, Hold parties accountable to the Political Party Code of Conduct and focus voter education on the secrecy of the vote, among many others.
The recommendations by the IRI-NDI are the same as the electoral demands that have been put forward by the MDC Alliance to ZEC during its march a few days ago.