Concerns rise over fairness, integrity ahead of Zimbabwe election

As Zimbabwe approaches its highly anticipated general election on August 23, 2023, the spotlight has turned to the fairness and integrity of the upcoming polls.

Past elections in the country have been marred by irregularities, sparking scepticism among observers about the transparency of the electoral process.

Addressing diplomats and election observer missions on Monday, Zimbabwean government officials sought to assure the international community of the country’s preparedness for the crucial election. However, concerns surrounding the credibility of the polls have emerged, with opposition parties and observers raising significant issues.

Voters’ roll

A major point of contention is the voters’ roll, which the opposition claims is riddled with irregularities and must undergo an audit before the election.

In 2018, the roll had 5.7 million registered voters, and as of the roll closure on June 2, 2023, the voter population for the 2023 election reached 6 million voters.

According to Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, an inspection exercise was conducted  between May 27 and June 1, with a total of 1 177 326 inspections done at 11 337 inspection centres.

Political parties campaigning as election day draws near

Design of ballot papers

The design of the ballot papers for contested constituencies and local authority wards, as well as the presidential ballot, is another contentious issue.

Minister Ziyambi claims that several court challenges have been lodged against the eligibility of some candidates, and the electoral management body cannot proceed with the design until the outcomes of these cases are resolved.

Other concerns related to the fairness of the electoral process include the uneven political playing field, the banning of political gatherings, and the equitable access to media for opposition parties.

The Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Gerald Gwinji provides statistics on political gatherings from January 1 to July 10, 2023, with the police receiving 1 437 notifications from the ruling party ZANU PF, of which 1 351 were compliant and 86 were not, leading to cancellations. Meanwhile, the opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) filed 410 notifications, of which 345 were compliant and 65 were not.

Eleven presidential candidates are vying for the top post in Zimbabwe, and their fates rest in the hands of the 6.6 million registered voters eligible to cast their ballots on August 23, 2023.

As the election approaches, both local and international observers will closely scrutinise the electoral process to ensure a transparent and credible outcome.

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