Commonwealth on MDC demands
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) can only accommodate demands by MDC-Alliance if they are within the ambit of the law, the Commonwealth said yesterday.
Head of the 23-member Commonwealth Observer Mission and former Ghanaian President Mr John Dramani Mahama said Zimbabwe was ready for elections as the political space had been broadened compared to previous elections.
He said while it was important to take stakeholders throughout the electoral process to ensure transparency, the printing of ballot papers was the sole responsibility of election commissions the world over.
The Commonwealth team is in the country for Monday’s harmonised elections and will observe the electoral process until August 6.
“It appears everybody wants to create sufficient democratic space and (we) have a high level confidence that they are being treated fairly,” Mr Mahama told journalists in Harare.
“It is for ZEC to listen to those complaints and, where it is possible within the law, to address those complaints. But if it takes ZEC outside the ambit of the law, I don’t think it is something they can contain. I believe we must have a large heart to accommodate everybody. The ruling party might have its demands, the opposition might have their demands and even though elections are a human process, we need to contain the concerns of everybody because you want everybody to go into the election with high level of assurance that they are going to be treated fairly in the electoral process.”
ZEC has repeatedly said the demands by MDC-Alliance have no legal basis according to the Constitution.
The Commonwealth last observed elections in the country in 2002.
Mr Mahama said overall, Zimbabwe was ready for elections.
“Fairly, we are ready to go but there are a few more days and if there are any rough edges I guess Zec and security organisations and all those who have a part to play in the elections can polish over those rough edges before Monday next week,” he said.
He said the election environment had greatly improved.“Election systems evolve,” he said.
“I believe that every election is better than the previous one. Certainly from 2002 to date it must be a vast improvement of what it was. There has been improvement, the political space is much broader than what it was but we cannot sit on our laurels and say because it’s better than it was last time we should not strive for perfection,” he said.
“There might be recommendations that we make in our final report that will make the process even much better. We were speaking with the electoral commission yesterday for instance. It’s the responsibility of the electoral commission to print the ballot paper. Everywhere in the world, it is the election commission that has the sole right to print but you increase the trust and confidence of the people if they are part of that process.”
ZEC went beyond its constitutional mandate to invite political parties to observe the printing of the ballot paper.
The electoral body has the exclusive constitutional mandate to procure ballot paper, design, print and distribute it.
Mr Mahama said they would issue a statement of their preliminary findings after the polls.
“The final report will then be prepared and submitted to the (Commonwealth) secretary-general (Patricia Scotland) who will share it with the Government of Zimbabwe, leaders of political parties, ZEC and Commonwealth governments,” he said.
He said the final report would be key in the secretary-general’s assessment of Zimbabwe’s interest in being readmitted to the organisation.
Government has written a letter to the Commonwealth expressing its interest to re-join the bloc.
Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 at the height of tension between Harare and London over the land reform programme.