ERC Voices Distress Over Gagging Of Observers

Staff Reporter

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Poll watchdog, the Election Resource Centre (ERC), has expressed deep concern over the electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC), behaviour of attempting to gag observers.

“The ERC however notes with concern the apparently shrinking space for constructive engagement between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and some stakeholders particularly Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and political parties,” the ERC said in a statement.

It added: “The ERC’s major concern is that ZEC is seemingly gagging observers by restricting them to merely watching and not saying anything which is a direct threat to transparency and inclusivity.

“This creates unnecessary loss of trust on administration of critical electoral processes. Transparency relates to allowing stakeholders to scrutinise the process and can only be achieved by questioning the process for it to be fully understood,” the Tawanda Chimhini led institution said.

The Commission, currently spearheading the procurement of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits, this week invited election stakeholders for an Observer Briefing. The briefing marked the beginning of the site validation test of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits for shortlisted suppliers which will be done in the next week.

The organisation said Zimbabwe is at such a crucial stage in the electoral cycle that requires constructive relations between the Election Management Body and all electoral stakeholders and “most importantly the opening up of space for oversight by stakeholders”.

The ERC warned that strained relations will only set the country towards another “disputed election, a development which we can ill afford as stakeholders.”

The think tank and advocacy institution on democracy and elections urged the Commission to welcome interrogation by stakeholders if transparency is to be achieved.

“The ERC implores ZEC to open up space for the electorate, civil society, political parties, media and development agencies to effectively participate in the site validation test of BVR kits and all other critical electoral processes to follow.

“This will not only rekindle the fledgling spirit of engagement through continued creation of platforms for engagement with key stakeholders but will go a long way in enhancing transparency, inclusivity and integrity of the electoral processes,” read part of the statement.

The ERC commended ZEC’s culture of engagement which characterized the electoral landscape since the 2013 polls, though the engagement comes with various challenges.

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