By Daniel Chigundu
Legal and political commentators are of the view that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is likely to use the hugely controversial 2013 voters roll in the impending 2018 general elections.
While ZEC says it is in the process of trying to compile new voters roll as required by the new constitution, the issue of time frames has been questioned by many political analysts in and outside the country.
According to ZEC chair person Rita Makarau, the commission hopes to finish the new Biometric Voter Registration at least by December 31, 2017, ahead of elections that might be held the latest end of August 2018.
However, the issue surrounding delays in acquiring the BVR kits and starting of actual registration is casting doubts if the commission will be able to do a thorough job.
Speaking recently, lawyer and former MDC-T policy advisor Alex Magaisa said ZEC is deliberately wasting time so that they will have no choice but to use the previous voters roll which allegedly has ghost voters.
“I don’t think anyone is interested in the BVR, all these delays in acquiring the kits and rolling them out is to ensure there won’t be enough time to fully implement all the processes leaving them with no choice but to use the 2013 voters roll.
“The 2013 voters roll is a secret document, the opposition parties have requested for it since 2013 they haven’t been given and yet it is likely that ZEC will use it in 2018,” he said.
Legal watchdog Veritas in their Election Watch report, however, brings another angle to the issue of voters roll, the new constitution and the delimitation exercises.
ZEC is on record saying it will not conduct a fresh delimitation exercise for the 2018 elections and will only use the boundaries set out in the previous polls.
However, according to Veritas, there are two opinions that have been put forward with regards to the delimitations exercise, the first one being that the Constitution makes the old delimitation applicable only to the 2013 elections.
The alternative view is that the next delimitation should be held before the 2023 general election, not the 2018 election.
The Veritas report says ZEC’s position may be based on the questionable alternative view and on the fact that, they had decided to wait until they had completed a Biometric Voter Registration before doing a delimitation, and they have now run out of time.
According to Veritas delaying the 2018 general elections to allow delimitation under using the new voters roll is not possible under the new constitution and there are only two options available for ZEC.
“So we are left with 1. ZEC’s decision to using the 2007/8 delimitation exercise for the coming elections based on the voters roll for the 2008 elections and the 2002 census. We then face the prospect of a general election conducted on a new and better voters roll but marred by outdated constituencies and wards in which the numbers of voters vary beyond the 20 per cent limit prescribed in section 16(6) of the Constitution.
“And if the BVR exercise is not completed on time or proves unsatisfactory, we will have to fall back on not only a totally out of date delimitation of constituency and ward boundaries but voters roll that is generally recognised as seriously inaccurate.
“2. Doing a delimitation exercise right now based on the voters roll used in the 2013 elections. This may be preferable to using the 2007/8 voters roll. The question is: would ZEC be able to do this now? Or are they now overstretched doing the BVR?
“Failure to conduct a proper delimitation before the 2018 general election is likely to affect the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral outcome. There was cause for concern that the electoral boundaries in the 2013 elections were not accurate or representative of the voter population distribution. That risk will be higher in the 2018 elections,” said the Veritas report.
By Daniel Chigundu