Suspension of elections poses a threat to Zimbabwe’s democracy: ERC

Calls by some people for the suspension of the 2023 elections due to the flaws in the electoral process are misplaced as this will be a clear violation of the country’s constitution, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) has said.

In a statement, Wednesday, ERC, an advocacy organisation on electoral and democracy issues in Zimbabwe said elections are central to Zimbabwe’s democracy.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, Norton Member of Parliament Temba Mliswa called for the suspension of polls in favour of a transitional authority.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader Douglas Mwonzora has approached the Constitutional Court seeking the nullification of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) delimitation report, which he says was done unproceduraly.

However, in a statement, ERC argued that the elections could not be suspended as the constitution has clear timelines for the holding of elections.

Section 158 of the constitution states that a general election must be held so that polling takes place not more than thirty days before the expiry of the five-year period specified in section 143.

“The ERC notes this statement in light of increased calls by certain electoral stakeholders calling for the suspension of the 2023 Harmonised Elections. Through elections, the fundamental right of every citizen to political participation is realised and elections guarantee the philosophical-political principle of democracy (people’s power),”  said ERC.

They said suspending elections would be a clear violation of the rights of Zimbabweans to participate in the democratic process and would be a step away from democratic accountability and has the potential to lead to political instability.

“Suspending elections denotes a move away from the hard deadline spelt out in the Constitution where the terms of office of elected officials end on 26 August 2023. This is a threat to Zimbabwe’s constitutional democracy,” the organisation said.

“Should the elections get suspended, this could lead Zimbabwe to legal lacuna (gap) as there is no extension provision regarding terms of office. Additionally, the ERC would like to reiterate and make it clear that the Constitution is explicit and peremptory in that, where the delimitation report is not completed six months before an election, or where it is deemed unconstitutional, the old boundaries ought to apply for that election and does not envision a suspension of elections,” they said.

ERC said there is no legal basis that will allow the current government to legitimately remain in power post-26 August 2023.

“The constitution makes it clear that power should be acquired only through a periodic election conducted every five years, and the term of office of elected government officers is strictly five years. There is no legal basis that will allow the current government to legitimately remain in power post 26 August 2023, therefore any proposed suspension of the 2023 Harmonised Elections poses a threat to Zimbabwe’s democracy,” they said.

President Mnangagwa is yet to proclaim the date for the elections.

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