OPPOSITION political parties and civil society members have requested the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) to endorse a boycott of next year’s parliamentary election if President Robert
Mugabe refuses to make electoral amendments.
Fierce debate marked the closing session of a two-day workshop organised by Zesn in Harare to discuss the Electoral Laws Draft Bill compiled by a coalition of more than 30 civil society organisations.
A suggestion that Zesn merely endorse the draft bill to government and leave the rest to political parties was shot down. Zesn had to clearly state in the draft bill that failure to effect changes to current laws would mean a non-recognition of next year’s parliamentary election outcome, the meeting heard.
“We want Zesn to make a definitive position to government regarding this issue,” said Wurayai Zembe of the Democratic Party.
“Zesn must clearly state that it won’t recognise an election held under the current system. Without amendments it means the poll will be boycotted by all the groups that constitute the network.”
National Constitutional Assembly head Lovemore Madhuku, who chaired the closing session, endorsed participants’ sentiments.
“I think it is clear that the suggestion being made by some participants is that Zesn has to state in the draft bill that it won’t recognise elections held under the current electoral system,” said Madhuku.
Remus Makuwaza, head of the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) election directorate said: “The demand by civil society for electoral amendments is legitimate and good for the growth of democracy. Therefore Zesn’s efforts must be fully supported.”
Zesn chairman Reginald Matchaba-Hove said in closing remarks that the network would relay to government requests made by the participants.
The draft bill was compiled by Zesn after a national consultative campaign calling for an Independent Electoral Commission to replace the existing Electoral Supervisory Commission whose members are appointed by President Mugabe.
The bill also calls for an overhaul of electoral laws for them to conform to international standards.
Justice and Parliamentary Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa recently scoffed at calls by the opposition and civil society for electoral amendments, saying no changes would be made before next year’s polls. He also said the MDC feared defeat.
The MDC national executive has resolved to boycott next year’s polls unless amendments are made.