Electoral Integrity: A necessity in the wake of elections in Zimbabwe
Elections are key in any political and democratic set up. History has shown that elections are highly contested with various stakeholders aiming to sway the results in their favour. In Zimbabwe, the overview shows that elections are synonymous with voter apathy (particularly the youths), violence, information asymmetry and general lack of trust in the process and outcome. In the wake of the 2018 elections, it is key for stakeholders to advocate for transparency, accountability and electoral integrity to enhance democracy and governance in Zimbabwe.
Electoral Integrity refers to the confidence the public has on “any election that is based on the democratic principles of universal suffrage and political equality as reflected in international standards and agreements, and is professional, impartial, and transparent in its preparation and administration throughout the electoral cycle”. Based on this approach, pre and post-election processes should be founded on inclusiveness, transparency and accountability so as to enhance confidence in the stakeholders and strengthen the legitimacy of an elected government. Zimbabwe thus needs to strive towards electoral excellence so as promote political, economic and social stability.
In order to strengthen electoral integrity there must be public confidence in the is ideal that, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a constitutionally designated electoral bodyconducts itself in a professional, competent, independent and transparent. Stakeholders should be able to ask questions regarding each process and seek clarity whenever necessary. Also, stakeholders should not feel or assume that they are legal, administrative, political, economic and social barriers towards their right to effectively participate in elections. Citizens in Zimbabwe for example have raised the issue of proof of residence and citizenship status. These become issues that need attention and clarity by the electoral body.
Additionally, the introduction of the Bio-metric Voter Registration presents new challenges that would need to be dealt with in earnest. Various stakeholder have already noted some of these, such as tendering process of the BVR kits as well as limited information on why there is this adoption. Voter education is limited with stakeholders still debating on the side-lines of when and how the voter registration will take place. This is an indicator and a threat against electoral integrity.
Transparency International Zimbabwe (TI Z) is of the view that, ZEC should partner with and not isolate stakeholders that aim to contribute towards electoral integrity. Civic Society Organisations can effectively play a role in enhancing citizen information on the BVR process and generate excitement amongst the people so as to increase participation. Also, these stakeholders can further give and authenticate credence towards the electoral process if they are effectively and sufficiently engaged.
TI Z as an anti-corruption watchdog will be focusing on electoral integrity to contribute in the pre and post electoral processes. This is done with the view point of promoting citizen engagement and later contribute to accountability of elected officials.