Electoral Reforms

ELECTORAL REFORMS

Introduction
Unfortunately for one reason or the other, the majority of youths in Zimbabwe is averse to following the electoral process. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been cited as a contributor to this aversion by their neglect/unwillingness to implement the Electoral Act chapter 2:13. ZEC has voter education monopoly and are reluctant to allow civic society to implement this programme. Furthermore, ZEC offices are not open for continuous registration and are only accessible towards election periods, a situation which creates unnecessary congestion and many potential voters either avoid the long wait in the resultant queues or miss the deadlines.  Another contributing factor to the youths lethargy to vote, is that some of the electoral laws have not been aligned to the new constitution e.g. the infamous Public Order and Security Act (POSA), a piece of legislation which was introduced in 2002 and amended in 2007 and violates the human right to freedom of association and assembly.

Current Status

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During the 2013 national elections only 2.2% of the youths between the ages of 18 and 35 years old who were registered voters, voted. The highest number of voters was found in the age bracket of between 35 and 65 years old and represented 89% of the registered voters, the rest of the voters comprised of registered voters above 65 years old.  These figures reflect that the people who follow the electoral process and have a voice regarding leadership are between 35 and 65 years old.  Of this age bracket, the majority of the voters are female.  It is very disconcerting that the youth constitute 68% of the eligible voters in Zimbabwe and therefore have the numbers to make influential and meaningful impact but they do not vote.
 
Voter apathy among the youth and indeed the Zimbabwean citizens at large may be blamed on the below contributing factors amongst others:
1. ZEC’s interference and lack of cooperation.
2. The non-alignment of electoral reforms to the Constitution.
3. Fear and intimidation where youths have gone to the extent of running away from their residences during elections only to return home when the elections are over.  
4. State machinery is further employed to create an environment of fear and trepidation and to ensure that the Draconian POSA legislature is implemented.  The Zimbabwe Republic District Police ZRP (DISPOL) are vested with the powers to approve or deny campaign rallies and meetings to which approval of is always heavily biased towards the ruling party, ZANU PF much to the detriment of opposition parties who are often denied such electoral rights.
5. During elections, it has been noticed that in the rural areas, where the ruling party has the monopoly, youths are assigned duties on Election Day while the elders or parents go and vote, in urban areas many youths instead of voting inadvertently forgo their right to vote, choosing instead to engage in other activities.
6. Voter apathy amongst the youths can be blamed on the aforementioned reasons as well as the fact that many cases have been reported where registered youth voters have mysteriously been removed from the voters roll.  
 
An example of youths being removed from the voters’ roll was witnessed during the Hurungwe West By-Election of 2015 where more than 5,000 youths were turned away and denied the opportunity to vote as they had for some inexplicable reason been removed from the voters’ roll.  However these very same youth, were youth who had previously voted in the National Election of 2013.  Where did their names go?

ZEC has recently introduced “Polling Station based registration and voting”.  This effectively means that one must vote at the polling station that you registered at as opposed to the former ward based system.  This new system is a system that has successfully been implemented during the by-elections in Marondera, Mhondoro-Mubaira and Guruve South.

YARD’s Role in the Electoral Process
One of YARD’s key objectives is “to promote the active participation of youths in Nation building through advocating for electoral reforms and by galvanising the understanding and appreciation of the electoral process of voter education, registration, inspection and participation.”  
 
In pursuance of this objective, YARD mobilises and encourages the youth to follow the electoral process as it is this process that will allow them to determine their futures or enter the corridors of power. YARD encourages and recommends that all political parties accommodate the youth in leadership positions now and not tomorrow, hence “the Emerging Force Leading Now!”
 
YARD advocates that 40% of legislative office i.e. Councillors, Members of Parliament and Senate should be occupied by youth leaders.    
 
The establishment of YARD structures in the Wards, Constituencies, Districts and Provinces will be instrumental in facilitating for the inclusion of youth candidates in leadership positions.
 
YARD supports youth candidature in any election.
Yard Promoting Youth Leadership
How YARD plans to mobilise youth voters and youth leadership:
1. It is crucial that youths are encouraged to register as voters so in order for them to be able to identify with and vote for their peers
2. Voter education regarding the Electoral process is key as many of the youth do not understand that an election is a process and encompasses the following:
i. Voter registration
ii. Inspection of the voters role
iii. The authority to demand information where required
iiii. Voter Education
v. Nomination of candidates
vi. The conduct of polls
 
Advocacy in Action
• YARD will continuously strive for the alignment of POSA and other laws which are in conflict with the Electoral Act
• YARD will move to have these motions heard in the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe (ConCourt) to ensure free, fair and credible elections
• YARD will advocate that in line with the new constitution, voter registration should be a continuous process as espoused in the Electoral Act chapter 2:13 Part IV 17A which clearly states that,
1. “Voter registration shall be conducted on continuous basis so as to keep the voters roll up to date.
2. Pursuant to subsection (1), every person claiming to be a voter shall be entitled at any time while the voters roll is open, to lodge a claim for registration as a voter or for the transfer of registration as a voter in terms of this Act--
      (a) ,during normal hours on any working day, the case of a registration office or
       (b) during the period when a mobile voter registration facility is operating  in the area where the voter wishes to registered as a voter, or from or to which he or she wishes to be transferred as a voter
3. To establish a team of people who will encourage the youths to register and vote in elections
4. To keep a register of youths who are voter in each ward and constituency.”