News and Information

Mugabe Gives in to SADC Critics On Poll Law
October 8, 2004

Business Day (Johannesburg)

October 8, 2004
Posted to the web October 8, 2004

Dumisani Muleya

FACED with pressure at home and abroad, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has introduced a second set of electoral reforms in a month, abolishing the controversial mobile polling stations and setting up a tribunal to settle poll disputes.

The electoral bill is the second set of poll regulations introduced by Mugabe (pictured right) ahead of national elections due in March. They are also an attempt by Mugabe to meet electoral standards set by his peers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

On September 10 the government published the Zimbabwe Electoral Commissions Bill, which went through its first reading in parliament on Wednesday.

If enacted the bill will give Mugabe powers to appoint key members of an "independent" commission to oversee all elections, limit the voting days to one and open the counting of votes at polling stations.

The new bill is also aimed at limiting the controversial postal votes, which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed were used by the ruling party to steal the last general election .

The MDC yesterday dismissed the reforms as "piecemeal and cosmetic", saying they did not address fundamental electoral problems. It said the changes fell "far too short" of SADC principles governing democratic elections.

The country's civic groups have also complained about a lack of safeguards to ensure the independence of the electoral commission, and fear that it might be biased.

Last week the groups told a parliamentary committee that they were worried that the electoral commission did not adequately address issues relating to electoral violence and conflict resolution.


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