YETT PotluckUnpacking the Contents ofthe Electoral AmendmentAct 2012from a YouthPerspective (Zimbabwe)
Presented by NyashaSengayiResearcher, CampaignStrategist, WriterSource InternationalHarare Zimbabwe
Objectives› To unpack the implications of the Electoral Amendment Act for the youth in Zimbabwe› To pool strategy for the engagement of youth in the electoral processes.› To reflect on elections as a development process for young people
Are the youth ofZimbabwe ready toembrace electionsas a developmentprocess rather thanan event?
Electoral Amendment Act:Background and context› What is an election? – a formal organized process of voting to elect authority into place. Exercising choice in establishing leadership and it follows numerous processes. Young people need to understand the electoral process in order for them to articulate the Electoral Act.› The Electoral Amendment Act is a legal guide which should provision for free fair and regular elections in a number of processes before and after the actual voting processes. To provide fair and level ground or contesters and voters at all stages of the electoral cycle.
The relevance of the electoralcycle for the ZimbabweanYouth Movement› Zimbabwe needs an election cycle which is clearly defined so that young people can position themselves strategically during the next election period in 2013.› The election cycle is therefore critical for young people and Zimbabwe at large to map how they can influence governance processes .› In addition the cycle builds the capacity of young people to review their contribution in participating in public processes.› It also positions elections as a development process rather than an event.
Youth Issues on Elections InZimbabwe.› Violence› Apathy› Voter education is inadequate› Politics of exclusion› The election cycle is not defined› Absence of the political will power to streamline fair and free elections by the contesting parties. Electoral Environment› Voter Education› Electoral bodies- young people are excluded in the governance structures of electoral processes.
Unpacking the ElectoralAmendment Act› The Electoral Amendment Act has been reviewed with the overall purpose of facilitating for free and fair elections.› It however does not ascertain whether they will be regular.› Most of the provisions will be factored in the next election which is anticipated in March 2013 . However some provisions are practically impossible to implement as the time remaining is not enough to regulate the provisions . For example the Voter’s Role and Polling station Based voter’s Roll.› The Act however whilst it is not perfect or the ideal document which can work for Zimbabwe it presents a lot of opportunities for young people to exercise their right to vote and be voted for should the provisions be adhered to by the contesting parties.› In the analysis of the contents of the Act in the next slides I present only the opportunities which young people can take advantage of in order to make a youth difference in the next election. The analysis is however not exhaustive of all the provisions of the Act.
Electoral Amendment Bill :Unpacking the contents( Topical Summary of the issues )› Voter registration and Voter s Roll› Polling Station Based Voters Roll› Presidential Elections and results› Pre-emption of Results› Voter Education› Election Observation and Accreditation› Nomination of Candidates› Voting processes and Procedures› Voting by Illiterate of by Physically handicapped Voters› Postal and Special Voting› Politically Motivated violence and Intimidation› Media Coverage Electoral Court› Electoral court› Independence of the Commission
Voter registration and Voter’sRoll › Proof of residence- the provision of allowing voters to register to vote if they can prove that they are resident in constituents through the commissioner or by any other means gives leverage and regulates the youth vote since they now have a wider alternative to access proof of residence. › The voter’s roll continues to be managed by the Registrar General’s Office with the assistance of the Commission. This is grey area as young people are concerned about the ability of the Zimbabwe Electoral commission to regulate the voter’s roll without undue influence form the registrars office. › Removal of deceased and absent voters as well as rejection of the Diaspora Vote. – those who have not been resident in a constituent for more than a year or who have not been in Zimbabwe for a stipulated period. A lot of young people have relocated out of Zimbabwe seeking employment as a result a critical youth diaspora vote is lost.
Polling Station Based VotersRoll › Voters can now only vote in polling stations in which they are registered not within the constituency thereby minimising rigging or voting twice or bussing in of voters from other areas. › This however might expose Voters to violence as voting trends are easily traceable. In wake of political tolerance this will therefore make the voting environment volatile. Young people will be greatly affected as they usually targeted during elections. This provision is however not going to be enacted in the next election according to information coming ZEC.
Presidential Elections andresults › The issue of accounting for presidential results is a cause for concern for young people . The presidium has retained the authority to announce election dates which automatically means the electoral cycle is not autonomous. As it stands Zimbabwe has projected that it does not have a clearly defined electoral cycle. This disadvantages young people as they cannot strategically position themselves in order to make the election cycle work for their benefit. This calls for the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which however is not guaranteed in the Act.
Pre-emption of Results › Election results shall only be announced by responsible authorities which in this case are the Commission and the registrar general’s Office. › The return of all the elections will be posted outside each polling station. › Theres a loophole as there is no clearly laid out procedure for synchronising the poll results all over the nation. The prerogative of legitimising the results therefore remains with ZEC and The Registrar generals Office. And young people will not be able to leverage the results.
Voter Education › The commission will have control of the Voter education processes with it being limited to the Commission and any other players identified by the Commission itself to assist in voter education. Young people are therefore urged to engage ZEC in order for them to conduct Voter Education. It is critical for young people to engage in voter education as this can give them an opportunity to shape and design information which the voters should have in order for them to participate without prejudice in the next election. › All foreign funding for voter education should be channelled through the commission. Most youth organisations depend on donor funding when implementing their projects . This provision presents challenges for organisations to mobilise for resources. › ZEC will also review all Voter education Content which organisations will propose to use. Under such regulations it will be difficult to push for the Youth Electoral Agenda.
Election Observation andAccreditation › The Commission will select observers through the Observers Accreditation Committee OAC. The appointment is based on political appointment. Young people should also participate in Election observation . ZEC should ensure there’s a quota for that. › No leeway for appeal should they deny observers permission to monitor elections.
Nomination of Candidates› Partyshould provide names of Candidate to the Commission . Political parties should ensure that young people are given the opportunity to contest in elections as well.
Voting processes andProcedures › Elections dates still being announced by the president › Polling day is now between 42 and 63 days after nomination of the candidates to give more time for preparing for voting. This gives youth more time to disseminate as much information on elections as possible. › The role of the police has been restricted. They are no longer allowed in the polling station unless at the request of the command officer and they are under his authority. This instils confidence in young people to vote.
Voting by Illiterate of byPhysically handicappedVoters › Phsyicallyhandicapped and Illiterate voters can now be assisted to vote by persons of their choice rather than the electoral officials. This does not guarantee the secrecy of the ballot . Voters may be subject to intimidation in cases where they do not have a relative or some one they trust to assist.
Postal and Special Voting › Special Voting should also be extended to the elderly, immobile and handicapped apart from the security personnel. › Postal voting is still restricted to those out of the country for government business
Politically Motivated violenceand Intimidation › Measures to stop political violence put in place. › Set in what they call the Electoral Code of Conduct which applies to all parties in an election. › Political parties actually obliged to give wide publicity to the code. › Enshrines rights which candidates and supporters should be provisioned for and those which they should uphold as well. › Disseminate accurate information on Elections. › Makes a list of prohibited actions in the election. › Generally give an explicit conduct in which parties should uphold before ,during and after elections
Media Coverage › Media is expected to cover fairly all electoral proceedings for all parties. › It should be unbiased and balanced, accurate › Media Commission will monitor media coverage for elections. › Youth are now able express their views on elections through media if this regulation is implemented effectively.
Electoral court › Will resolve dispute and assume all powers of the High Court in relation to electoral matters such as appeals, petitions and reviews of the Electoral Act. › It has jurisdiction on matters under the Electoral act › youth can take up their concerns on electoral disputes to the electoral court. This at least guarantees legal protection of the vote to some extent.
Independence of theCommission › Restated the provisions of the ZEC Act.. › Nothing new was amended in the ZEC Act. › ZEC however is now reporting to the parliament instead of the government. › Young people need a take in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission . There is no provision which sets the exclusive participation of young people in the way elections are held in Zimbabwe.
Electoral Amendment Act:Reflections for Relevant Action› Need to identify how we can raise awareness on the contents of the Electoral Amendment Act for Young People all over Zimbabwe.› The Electoral Amendment Act is not a Perfect Document but young people can find ways t work with it for their benefit as highlighted in the slides analysed above.› The youth of Zimbabwe needs to build a working relationship with ZEC because that’s where the ropes are ..› We need to strategize on how we can get young people to participate in the next election.› Create a Youth electoral agenda in wake of the Electoral Amendment act.
Conclusion› “The principle of democracy means much more than just holding elections periodically; it entails the involvement ,participation, and consultation of the people in all matters that affect them. Democracy also signifies accountability.” Wilfred Mhanda in Dzino: Memories of a Freedom fighter.