By Portia Sigauke
Legislative watchdog Veritas has said failure by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to conduct a proper delimitation before the 2018 general election is likely to affect the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral outcome.
Delimitation is the process of dividing the country into constituencies and wards for the purposes of elections of persons to constituency seats in the National Assembly and of councillors to local authorities.
During the 2013 general elections inaccuracy of electoral boundaries was a cause of concern as representative of the voter population distribution did not tally.
In a report, Veritas said the objective of delimitation was to ensure that each person’s vote is equal to every other person’s vote.
“If there are significant differences in the number of voters in each constituency, the votes cast by voters in constituencies with fewer voters will count for more than the votes cast in constituencies with larger numbers of voters. Delay in holding a new delimitation may mean that constituencies and wards vary by more than the 20% difference prescribed by the Constitution, resulting in court challenges,” read part of the report.
Below we look at why delimitation process matters in elections and how often it should be carried out.
The delimitation of accurate boundaries is critical to the success of any election, but it also requires careful management as it can easily be manipulated. If electoral boundaries are poorly drawn, it can lead to under-representation of the people in some constituencies which would have more people, while creating over-representation in other constituencies with fewer people. The fundamental principle is that electoral boundaries must as far as possible create equally represented constituencies with shared community interests.
The fundamental principle is that electoral boundaries must as far as possible create equally represented constituencies with shared community interests. The principle of one person one vote is based on the core value that each vote must be equal to the other.
However if constituencies with fewer numbers of people are permitted to elect the same number of representatives as constituencies with larger numbers of people, the notion of one person one vote is undermined as it would mean other votes carry more weight than others.
However, in previous years, the delimitation exercise has neither been transparent nor timely in relation to the elections. The process has also been at risk of political manipulation, with the ruling party and President usually having greater and earlier access to and control over delimitation data and therefore enjoying an unfair advantage over other candidates.
The last delimitation was in 2007/8, before the 2008 election. It was conducted in terms of the old constitution and was based on the Registrar-General’s voters roll. The old constitution made no linkage with delimitation and a population census.