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Zimbabwe poll reform moves are too little, too late

10 June 2018 - 00:00 By JAMES THOMPSON

Opposition legal eagles were caught napping by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's election proclamation and face going to the polls without the voting reforms they say are vital.
The MDC Alliance opposition coalition, whose leading lights are lawyers Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube and presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, led a march in Harare on Tuesday to petition the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Mnangagwa for changes to the electoral law.
But the march came six days after Mnangagwa proclaimed July 30 as the election date, and the electoral law says: "After an election has been called, no change to the electoral law or to any other law relating to elections has effect for the purpose of that election."
The opposition wants the removal of former military personnel from the election commission payroll, coverage by state media, and an inspection of the voters roll.
Human Rights Watch said the lack of reforms would probably result in a disputed election. "The Zimbabwe government's failure to carry out legal and electoral reforms threatens the credibility of national elections," it said in a statement."Despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa's repeated promises that elections will be free and fair, the ability of voters to freely choose their leaders is in serious doubt."
A countrywide Human Rights Watch survey in May found Mnangagwa's administration had embedded security forces in the electoral process, saying: "At least 15% of the [electoral commission's] secretariat are serving or former military officials. The military should help make the commission more independent and professional by removing serving military officers from the body."
Political analyst Zama Mkhwananzi said the opposition had had five years to lobby for electoral reforms. "They did nothing while they were in parliament all those years. Instead they resorted to their own internal politics, leading to them recalling legislators and Zanu-PF having by-elections uncontested. It should have been a process, not a knee-jerk approach," he said.
If the election is disputed, the biggest losers are likely to be voters. The EU and US say the poll must be credible if Zimbabwe hopes to receive international assistance to revive its economy...

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