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Political temperatures hot up as Zimbabwe gears for 2018 elections

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Political temperatures are hotting up as Zimbabweans brace for elections slated for 2018 with hardly a day passing without political parties and ordinary citizens talking about the much anticipated polls.

Some media organizations are referring to the elections as “watershed” in the hope that they will offer a turning point to the country’s political landscape, but preparations are still in their infancy as voter registration is yet to begin.

Zimbabwe will for the first time in history use biometric voter registration (BVR) for elections as it seeks to improve transparency and eliminate multiple registrations of the same people on the voters roll.

Unlike in previous registrations where voters were only required to provide their identity cards and proof of residence at polling stations, the new exercise will require verification of finger prints and digital photographs.

The BVR kit, to be supplied by Chinese company Laxton Group, and is expected in the country by the end of August.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said recently that it anticipated about 7 million people to register to vote and this week said it needed 274 million U.S. dollars to successfully steer the elections.

With the last elections in 2013 having been conducted on July 31, the 2018 elections are also expected to be held around the same time in line with the Constitution.

Veritas, a local organization that provides information on the work of Parliament and the laws of the country, said in its latest bulletin that according to the Constitution and the Electoral Act, polling days must fall within the 30-day period of July 23 to August 21.

It said suggestions that the president had a prerogative to choose any date in 2018 for elections and for gazetting his proclamation were not correct because the law no longer allowed him to do so.

“The president no longer has the discretion he previously enjoyed to force an early election on the country by dissolving Parliament.

“That may have been the case under the former Constitution, but it is clearly not possible under the present Constitution,” Veritas said.

It said however that only Parliament could force an early election by either refusing to pass an annual budget or passing resolutions in both Senate and the National Assembly to dissolve Parliament, for which two-thirds majorities were required, or passing a vote of no confidence in the Government.

If President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party Zanu-PF is determined to have early elections held, it may use its two-thirds majority in Parliament to refuse to pass the 2018 budget.

Mugabe is already on a whirlwind tour of the country holding campaign rallies which are being termed youth interface meetings attended by thousands of supporters and school children.

On their part, opposition parties have also been holding meetings with their supporters, although not at the magnitude of Zanu-PF, but with their preoccupation being the formation of a grand coalition to fight the elections on a united front in a bid to topple Mugabe.

However, there are many fissures within the opposition outfit as they subtly haggle over who should lead the coalition.

The opposition’s trump card appears to be Mugabe’s perceived failure to create within five years the more than 2 million jobs his party promised ahead of the 2013 elections, the continued deterioration of infrastructure and social services and the severe cash shortages affecting most citizens.

Mugabe said recently that people should create their own jobs instead of waiting to be employed.

Zanu-PF Member of Parliament for Highfield West in Harare Psychology Maziwisa said the party had not promised to create formal jobs and had in fact surpassed the 2.2 million mark since many people had gone into informal employment.

The police have said they are ready for the elections and will ensure that there is no political violence accompanying them.

Elections have been marred by violence since 2000 with MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulling out of the 2008 presidential run-off alleging that his supporters were being assaulted by Mugabe’s supporters.

Street hawker Petros Njani said the next elections should be about food on the table and whoever promised a better future for the people would win.

“The truth is that many people are not happy at the moment. We are all low because we are not getting all the services that we should be getting. Drugs are short in hospitals; our roads are in a sorry state and we cannot withdraw our money from the banks.

“The opposition says that all our problems are there because Mugabe has failed to lead and Zanu-PF blames all this on what it says are economic sanctions imposed on the country at the behest of opposition parties. What we need now is for us to reclaim our future and build our children’s future. I hope the best party will win,” he said without indicating which party he would vote for.

Both the ruling party and the opposition are targeting the youth’s votes, with the opposition also seeking to make inroads into rural areas which have hitherto remained Zanu-PF strongholds.



Zimbabwe says requires 274 mln USD for 2018 elections

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said Tuesday it requires 274 million U.S. dollars to conduct national elections set for mid 2018.

The electoral body has begun preparations for next year’s polls with voter registration expected to start soon and end in December.

“A consolidated budget requirement has since been submitted to Treasury for funding in the sum of 274 million dollars,” ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau told a parliamentary committee.

Makarau said the funding will enable ZEC to procure all election materials necessary and to pay all allowances necessary to ensure a successful voter registration exercise as well as free and fair election.

She urged political parties and civic organizations to start voter education, indicating that ZEC’s constitutionally mandated voter education was due to begin soon.

Zimbabwe will use the biometric voter registration system for the first time to compile a new voters’ roll ahead of the polls.

The system entails the use of unique individual identification techniques such as fingerprints and iris to identify voters. Previously, voters only used their national identification documents to register.

ZEC has said it is targeting to register 7 million voters for the 2018 polls, up from 6.8 million that were registered in the previous 2013 elections.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has since been endorsed by his ruling ZANU-PF party as its presidential candidate for next year’s polls, when he will be 94.


Zimbabwe’s electoral body says ready for 2018 polls

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s electoral body said Tuesday it is well prepared to hold elections set for mid 2018 and voter education is due to start soon.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Rita Makarau told a parliamentary committee that it will soon start countrywide voter education which will pave way for biometric voter registration exercise to be completed by December.

“We must complete voter registration by December 2017 for us to be able to hold elections on any date in 2018. It is the prerogative of the president to call for an election date but we stand ready to hold the elections,” Makarau said.

She appealed to political parties that will contest in next year’s polls as well as civil society organizations to start voter education now to give ample time for people to be educated about the requirements for voting.

Makarau said ZEC had submitted an election budget to Treasury which they were hopeful will be fully funded.

“It’s a frightening figure but elections don’t come cheap and we hope the money we have asked for will be released. Government has not failed us in the past and we don’t believe funding will be a challenge for the 2018 elections,” she said.

The ZEC chairperson said Zimbabweans with national identity documents showing that they are aliens should regularize their citizenship to ensure that they will be able to vote in next year’s elections.

Zimbabweans born in Zimbabwe but with parents of foreign origin, regarded as aliens, have previously been denied the right to vote, a development that has largely been criticized by the opposition for disenfranchising many prospective voters.

Makarau said the electoral body was targeting to register 7 million voters for next year’s polls, up from 6.8 million registered in the previous 2013 elections.

Meanwhile, Makarau appealed to political parties to shun violence and ensure a peaceful election.

Parties should also ensure the political environment is friendly to women and children, she said.

“As ZEC it will really be a sad day for us if at all there is going to be political violence in the run up, during and after elections. We call upon political parties to shun violence as a tool of campaigning and winning the hearts of prospective voters,” she said.

Makarau said ZEC would set up mechanisms to prevent and deal with politically motivated violence during the election period.

ZEC was also working with several women rights organizations to ensure more women contested in next year’s polls, Makarau said.

She also urged parliamentarians to lobby for legislation guaranteeing equal representation of women in the National Assembly, made up of 210 members.

Out of the 350 members in Zimbabwe’s Parliament, only 125 are women, constituting 34 percent. This is the highest ever number of women parliamentarians that Zimbabwe has had since independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe is for the first time using the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system, which entails use of unique individual identification techniques such as fingerprints and irises to identify voters. Previously, voters just used their national identification documents to register.

Makarau said the electoral body had already paid 50 percent deposit to equipment provider, Laxton Group of China and was now awaiting delivery of 3,000 BVR kits.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been endorsed by his ruling ZANU-PF party as its presidential candidate for next year’s polls, when he will be 94. 



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