Monday, August 05, 2013

(HERALD ZW) Comment: Time MDC-T joined march to polls
Thursday, 18 July 2013 00:00

WE salute the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that had to contend with seemingly insurmountable odds to conduct special voting on Monday and Sunday. We salute them even more for maintaining their wits in the face of unwarranted attacks from the same quarters responsible for the Special Vote mess in the first place.

Special voting — which replaced postal ballots used in previous elections — is provided for under Section 81A of the Electoral Act and is meant to afford all who will be on duty on voting day the chance to cast their ballots, and is held at least 16 days before polling day.

This is one of the legacies of the GPA negotiations of 2012, which was introduced at the instigation of the MDC formations which claimed that the postal ballot system used since 1980 was open to manipulation. The MDC formations claimed — without an iota of evidence — that service chiefs filled the ballots on behalf of all under their command.
They demanded special voting, which is a virtual mini-election only logistically harder, at least 16 days before polling day.

This system, as we saw this week, is not only a logistical nightmare, but compromises national security by tying security forces in the queue for the better part of 48 hours.

Yes it is used in South Africa from where it was copied but the sages behind the cut and paste job did not take into account national peculiarities that render this approach untenable here.

Unlike South Africa which uses a party list system and where each of the nine provinces is deemed a constituency, here we use a ward-based voters roll which creates logistical nightmares given that the country has 1 958 wards spread over 210 constituencies.

The MDC formations did not help matters either by deliberately working to frustrate the Special Vote to abet their selfish campaign for poll postponement, failing which the resultant debacle would be used as fodder for the planned post-poll litigation alluded to in the so-called Strategic Election Litigation adopted by the MDC-T last month.

As we reported yesterday, the MDC formations employed several strategies to sabotage the special vote, leaving ZEC with only 24 hours to print and distribute the ballot papers as well as deploy staff to the 209 polling centres that were set up for special voting countrywide.

The MDCs filed a glut of applications to the Constitutional Court to create an atmosphere of uncertainty that hamstrung ZEC’s preparations for the special vote and harmonised elections proper.

The parties filed 47 nomination court appeals between them that culminated in delays in the printing of ballot papers as ZEC did not know the final candidate list till Friday leaving it with only 24 hours to print and distribute ballots as well as deploy officers to the polling stations countrywide ahead of voting on Sunday.

As if that was not enough the MDC-T reportedly abused the two critical portfolios held by ministers drawn from its ranks to frustrate the printing of ballots at Printflow and Fidelity Printers, that fall under the ministry of finance, whose machines inexplicably reported double breakdowns; and suspicious power cuts that bedevilled only Msasa where the printing was taking place when the rest of the city was lit.

When the ballots were availed, the MDC formations went on to connive with some elements in ZEC, at the level of commissioners, to sabotage the chain of command by issuing conflicting statements that fomented confusion in the deployment of ballots and conduct of the vote.
This created near riotous situations like the one witnessed at Town House on Monday night.

Be that as it may, the blame for the special vote debacle lies squarely with the MDC formations, particularly MDC-T, which has spent more time trying to sabotage elections than selling itself to the electorate.

It is MDC-T not ZEC which is not ready for elections, and we hope all stakeholders and observers are alive to that fact.
Despite the obstacles thrown in its path, ZEC should be commended for conducting the vote and also moving to ensure that all who failed to cast ballots this week, will exercise their right to vote with everyone else on July 31. That is what electoral democracy is all about anyway, affording people the opportunity to choose their leaders.

Its high time the MDC formations realised the wisdom of the age old adage, if you can’t beat them, join them.

They must now join the nation in the march to the elections.
The train long left the station.


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