This Bill will amend the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] (“the principal Act”), principally to make the following changes to it:
(a) to bring the Act into conformity with the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013 (“the new Constitution”), in particular, with respect to the indirect party-list election of 60 Senators, 60 women members of the National Assembly and 80 members of the non-metropolitan provincial councils;
(b) to clarify the process of transmitting results from polling stations to the National Command Centre; in particular, to ensure that duplicate copies of the polling-station returns gathered from every polling station within a ward must also be transmitted directly to the National Command Centre at the same time as (or as soon as possible after) they are transmitted to the appropriate ward centres;
(c) to institute a procedure for the advance submission by political parties of nomination papers for constituency and party-list candidates and their scrutiny by the Commission before the actual nomination process;
(d) to institute a system of designation by political parties (through the Commission) of political party office-bearers at the national and provincial level, which office-bearers will be empowered to certify nomination papers and other electoral documents to avoid the double or multiple nomination of political party candidates;
(e) to reduce the number of nominators for candidates competing in the National Assembly elections from 10 to 5;
(f) to provide for the election of two Senators to represent persons with a disability in accordance with section 120(1)(d) of the new Constitution;
(g) to increase from one to two the number of election agents who are permitted to be in the immediate vicinity of a polling station, either one of whom may relieve an election agent within a polling station;
(h) to institute a procedure for the appointment by political parties of ward-based “roving political party agents” who will supplement the functions of chief election agents and election agents appointed individually by candidates; in particular, such roving political party agents will have the authority to temporarily require an election agent of the same political party who is within a polling station to vacate the polling station temporarily in favour of the roving agent;
(i) to permit all election agents and roving political party agents who are permitted and present within the immediate vicinity of a polling station to enter the polling station at the time of the commencement of the counting of the votes;
(j) to require all observers to apply for accreditation no later than the fourth day before the general elections and to introduce a dual system of accreditation at the national level (for foreign observers) and at the provincial level (for local observers);
and in addition to correct anomalies and discrepancies in the Electoral Act and make other amendments to ensure its conformity with the applicable provisions of the new Constitution.
In more detail, the individual provisions of the Bill are as follows:
This clause sets out the Bill’s short title.
This clause will substitute the existing Preamble to the principal Act by a new Preamble which recites the provisions of 157 (1), 238 and 239 of the new Constitution that deal with electoral matters; the Preamble obviates the need to repeat the functions of ZEC in the body of principal Act because these are quoted in section 238 of the new Constitution that is quoted in the Preamble.
This clause extends the application of the principal Act to the indirect party-list elections for provincial councils as required by the new Constitution.
Section 3 of the principal Act specifies some general principles of democratic elections. This clause will add additional principles, namely, a citizen’s right of access to information to enable his or her effective participation in the electoral process, as well as candidates’ rights and the principle that voting methods must be simple, accurate, verifiable, secure and transparent.
This clause provides a number of new or substituted definitions for terms used in the amended Act, including in particular “disciplined force” (to include the Prison Service as well as the Defence Forces and Police Force), “nomination day” (to accommodate the fact that there are now two successive nomination days for general elections), “constituency candidate/member” and “party-list candidate/seat” (to accommodate the new mixed system of direct first-past-the-post elections and indirect proportional representation elections), “provincial council” and “roving political party election agent”.
This clause will substitute section 6 of the principal Act (concerning qualifications for and terms and conditions of office and removal from office of Commissioners) with two new sections, the second of which will require the Minister responsible for the administration of the principal Act to promptly inform Parliament of the removal of a Commissioner from office.
This clause will add a provision to section 7 of the principal Act (concerning the procedure to be followed by the Commission) requiring the Commission to adopt and adapt its procedures in such a manner as to promote fairness and transparency in the performance of its functions.
This clause will remove an ambiguity in the definition of “political office” for the purposes of section 11 of the principal Act (which provides for the independence, impartiality and professionalism of Commissioners and staff and agents of Commission). The disambiguation makes it clear that certain important public offices are “political” even if not held by persons who political party members or office-bearers.
This clause will clarify the process of transmitting results from polling stations to the National Command Centre in two important respects: firstly, it requires all polling station results (whether for the local authority, House of Assembly or Presidential elections) to be transmitted to the next level up, namely, the appropriate ward election centre (and not simply the polling station returns for local authority elections, as before); secondly, it will require that duplicate copies of the polling-station returns gathered from every polling station within a ward must also be transmitted directly to the National Command Centre at the same time as (or as soon as possible after) they are transmitted to the appropriate ward centres.
This clause will amend section 38 (concerning the publication of the proclamation for general, presidential and local authority elections) of the principal Act to ensure its conformity with the applicable provisions of the new Constitution. In particular will accommodate the fact that there will now be two successive nomination days for general elections, the first for the nomination of the party-list candidates and the second for the nomination of the constituency candidates for the National Assembly.
This clause will insert a new section into the principal Act which will provide for the following:
(a) to enable political parties to submit in advance to the Commission for scrutiny nomination papers for constituency and party-list candidates, for the purpose of ensuring the smooth and expeditious processing of those papers on the actual nomination days;
(b) to enable political parties to designate through the Commission the names of political party office-bearers at the national and provincial level who will be empowered to certify nomination papers and other electoral documents to avoid the double or multiple nomination of political party candidates.
This clause provides a mechanism for filling vacancies occurring during the life of a Parliament among the party-list members of the Senate or of the National Assembly
This clause amends section 40G (concerning the functions of accredited observers) by adding to their functions the function of providing the Commission with a comprehensive review of the election.
This clause will boost the Commission representation in the Observers Accreditation Committee from one Commissioner to three Commissioners.
This clause will require all observers to apply for accreditation no later than the fourth day before the general elections and will also introduce a dual system of accreditation at the national level (for foreign observers) and at the provincial level (for local observers). It also shifts the role of the Observers Accreditation Committee from “passive endorsement” of the list of recommended observers submitted by the Chief Elections Officer (that is to say, the present situation where the CEO’s list is deemed to be endorsed by the Committee unless it makes specific objections to it) to “active scrutiny” of the recommended list.
Clauses 18 and 45
This clause will substitute the existing Part XI of the principal Act by two new Parts. Part XI provides for the election of two Senators to represent persons with a disability in accordance with section 120(1)(d) of the new Constitution. For this purpose, an electoral college consisting of selected persons with a disability will be constituted in accordance with the Seventh Schedule.
Part XIA, as read with the Eighth Schedule, seeks to institute the mechanism for the indirect party-list election of 60 Senators and 60 women members of the National Assembly. It does so by using the “largest remainder method” of proportional representation in which the quota is determined by the so-called “Droop method”. This method requires the numbers of votes for each party to be divided by a quota representing the number of votes required for a seat (i.e. the total number of votes cast divided by the number of seats to be filled, that is to say 6 Senate seats, 6 seats for the women members of the National Assembly and 10 provincial council seats). The result for each party will usually consist of an integer part plus a fractionalremainder. Each party is first allocated a number of seats equal to their integer. This will generally leave some seats unallocated: the parties are then ranked on the basis of the fractional remainders, and the parties with the largest remainders are each allocated one additional seat until all the seats have been allocated.
This clause (in addition to making amendments consequent upon the enactment of the new Constitution) will reduce the minimum number of required nominators to support a candidacy from ten to five, and also require the nomination of every political party candidate to be endorsed by the signatures of at least two designated office-bearers of that political party.
Clauses 20, 21 and 22
These clauses will permit political parties which have appointed designated office-bearers in accordance with the new section 38A to bypass the requirement of a by-election where a duly nominated candidate dies or withdraws before polling day. If the candidate concerned dies or withdraws within a certain period before polling day, the political party concerned can substitute that candidate by an expedited process of nomination not involving the convening of a nomination court.
Clauses 23 and 35
These clauses will increase from one to two the number of election agents who are permitted to be in the immediate vicinity of a polling station, either one of whom may relieve an election agent within a polling station.
Presently, voters who have registered to vote but whose names do not appear on the voters’ roll on election day may vote if they produce proof of registration in the form of a voters registration certificate issued to him or her. As a further guarantee against fraud, forgery or multiple voting, this clause will require that the voter concerned must also produce proof of identity in support of such a certificate.
This clause will permit all election agents and roving political party agents who are permitted and present within the immediate vicinity of a polling station to enter the polling station at the time of the commencement of the counting of the votes. The purpose of this amendment is to allow the agents to simultaneously observe the counting of multiple ballot boxes in a polling station during harmonised elections.
This clause substitutes section 65 and 65A of the principal Act by new provisos deal in greater detail with the verification and collation of polling station returns at ward level, of ward returns at constituency level and of constituency returns at provincial level.
Section 66A presently only subjects to criminal prosecution persons who purport to announce the results of an election before they are officially announced by an electoral officer. The new section 66A substituted by this clause will provide an additional and severer penalty for those falsely (that is, with intent to deceive or to discredit the electoral process) report any election result.
These clause reinstates the right of members of disciplined forces and electoral officers who will be away from their constituencies on security or official duties to vote by postal ballot.
Consequently upon the amendment effected by clause 33, these clause abolishes the Part in the Electoral Act dealing with “Special Voting”.
This clause will insert a new section into the principal Act providing for the appointment by political parties of ward-based “roving political party agents” who will supplement the functions of chief election agents and election agents appointed individually by candidates; in particular, such roving political party agents will have the authority to temporarily require an election agent of the same political party who is within a polling station to vacate the polling station temporarily in favour of the roving agent.
This clause will empower designated national or provincial office-bearers of a political party to submit, on behalf of each the party’s candidates, lists of chief elections agents. The amendment will also dispense with the existing (onerous and needless) requirement that candidates must give public notice, by an advertisement in a newspaper circulating in the constituency, of the full names and address of their chief election agents.
Clauses 37, 38 and 39
These clauses will substitute or amend provisions concerning the conduct or declaration of, or challenge to, the result of a contest for the election of the President, whether following upon a nomination (where only one Presidential candidate is nominated), or an election, or a runoff election (where no Presidential candidate in the main election gains more than half the votes cast). Clause 36 substitutes section 109 by requiring that the chairperson of the Commission or, in his or her absence, the deputy chairperson or, in his or absence, any other Commissioner designated for the purpose by the chairperson of the Commission, must declare the result of any of a contest for the Presidency (not the Chief Elections Officer, as at present). Clause 38 will redirect election petitions in respect of elections to office of President away from the Electoral Court to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land (this is in conformity with section 93 of the new Constitution).
Clauses 40 and 44
Section 101 of the new Constitution now governs succession to the Presidency in the event of the death, resignation or incapacity of the incumbent President. Accordingly, section 112A and the related Fifth Schedule of the principal Act must be repealed.
This clause will substitute sections 129 and 130 of the principal Act, which provides for the drawing of lots in the presence of the Chief Elections Officer in cases where the two top candidates in an election to Parliament or a local authority are tied. This clause will substitute these provision by enacting that, in such an event, a runoff by-election for the seat in question must be held.