By Election Resource Centre
This week the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) rolled out training of master trainers for the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process. Reports also indicate that ZEC received 400 kits for the BVR process from Laxton Group Limited. Another batch of 2 600 kits is expected to be delivered before October 2017. The Election Resource Centre (ERC) notes that requests to be allowed access to observe the receiving and the warehousing of the kits in the spirit of enhancing transparency in the pre-voter registration processes were turned down while the request to observe the training of master trainers was also turned down.
Given that the first batch of kits is now in the country and the training of master trainers has commenced, we are likely to see more movement around voter registration and elections in the next few days. Unfortunately all this movement continues against the backdrop of an Electoral Act that remains largely unaligned with the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, the necessary procedures for voter registration are still to be made public while more importantly, both the voter registration and the election implementation plan with clear time lines is yet to be prepared and publicly shared.
As ZEC embarks on the BVR process, a number of questions must be posed and hopefully answered as part of building public and stakeholder confidence in the process and ensuring some level of accountability and transparency in the 2018 election;
- Does our current legal framework of elections adequately meet constitutional provisions to make our elections and by extension, electoral processes constitutional and legal? To what extent does the current Zimbabwe legal and regulatory framework meet regional and international election standards and good practice?
- Is there a concept of operations in place ahead of voter registration exercise and if it’s there, has the operations plan been shared with stakeholders? If there is currently no plan in place which has been shared with stakeholders, on what basis is ZEC currently undertaking operational preparations on BVR?
- Has the schedule of the voter registration exercise been finalized and made public including when the provisional voters’ roll will be published, when inspection of the roll will be conducted and when the presentation of the final roll will be?
- Normally operational procedures based on the legal and regulatory framework are developed before the training and deployment of election process personnel. These govern all aspects of the voter registration process and aid in providing clarity in terms of operational guidelines. Operational procedures ensure equal treatment of every applicant and limit the discretion of election process officials. Have clear and detailed procedures for voter registration been developed for all processes of the voter registration process?
- What is the plan to monitor the voter registration exercise by ZEC?
- What are the plans for the recruitment of voter registration officials both at central and field level? What is the recruitment criteria? Have any measures been put in place to curb the recruitment of potentially partisan or biased officials?
- Have training plans been fully developed? What are the technical and procedural elements of the training? What are the quality control mechanisms that have been put in place by ZEC to ensure effective training at the lower levels of the cascade?
- Have plans for logistics preparations been clearly formulated? What are the back up plans in the event of challenges?
The ERC contends that the credibility of the 2018 elections hinges on the election administration body’s capacity to be transparent, inclusive and professional in planning, implementing and reviewing of all electoral processes going forward. Thus the immediate sharing of details on the issues raised will go a long way in showcasing ZEC’s state of preparedness for the 2018 elections.