December 17, 2004

Zanu PF and MDC assent to some electoral reforms

Three months before next year’s general election, the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been reported to have found common ground on key electoral issues. However, as MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said, the two parties were still poles apart on the political reform agenda. The reforms were contained in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Bill and the accompanying Electoral Bill. "There still remains an extremely wide gulf between Zanu PF and the MDC on the electoral reforms," Ncube said. "It’s not true that we are now proceeding by consensus because there is no agreement. What has happened is that they have made a few technical concessions, like improving the quality of drafting of the Bill, but not on fundamentals issues."
A parliamentary committee made up of MPs from both parties said polls would be open for twelve hours in next year's election. Observers of Zimbabwe's 2000 and 2002 elections slated the Zanu-PF government for closing polling booths and denying thousands the right to vote. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said he had already agreed that "translucent ballot boxes" would be used in the poll, expected in March 2005. But the MDC said it was "bitterly disappointed" that civil and church leaders would not be appointed as election supervisors. Chinamasa told state radio: "You can't just pick up people in the streets, as no one would be prepared to take responsibility if anything goes wrong." However, as MDC Chief Whip Innocent Gonese had put it: "We're not suggesting people should be picked from the street, we suggested eminent citizens should be trained as electoral supervisors. The opposition is far from satisfied and far from happy with the way the Electoral Act is being drafted, but negations are over, they're finished and what is in the new law will mainly be what Zanu-PF wants in the law," he said. (The Zimbabwe Independent/News 24, South Africa)

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