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US election observers urge revamp of Zimbabwe's recall process

by Staff reporter
16 Feb 2024 at 07:47hrs | Views
The Carter Centre's election observers have recommended that the Government and the Parliament of Zimbabwe revisit and revise sections 129 and 278 of the constitution, regarding recall processes, to include more safeguards against abuse or manipulation by political parties and leaders seeking to settle political scores.

This was contained in their final report on Zimbabwe's harmonised elections released on February 12, 2024.

The Carter Centre, which received a formal invitation from the government of Zimbabwe on July 5, 2023, to observe the harmonised elections, said collectively, the election process did not meet the country's commitment to genuine democratic elections and the democratic aspirations of the Zimbabwean people.

The pro-democracy group founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter said the latest wave of recalls of several CCC elected officials by an individual whose official membership of the concerned party is contested by its leadership and the recalled officials, clearly highlights the challenges in the current recall provisions and their implementation.

They said the controversial recalls of opposition MPs and councillors — widely condemned locally and internationally — disenfranchised voters in their respective constituencies and detracted from the country's stated commitment to promote inclusiveness and enhance the participation of women and youth in public and political life, "as recently elected young women mayors were among the recalled councillors."

The Carter Centre said the targeting of these groups raises concerns about their ability to fully participate in the democratic processes.

"While the practice of recalling elected representatives during their term of office can be an instrument to ensure adequate representation, it also can be weaponized to undermine democratic representation."

They said sections 129 and 278 of the constitution, which have been interpreted by the courts as giving political parties, rather than the electorate, exclusive powers to recall elected officials, are damaging to representative democracy.

"The electorate — including people who voted the MP or councillor into office even if they did not belong to the same party — does not have an opportunity to decide a potential recall. This mechanism is damaging to representative democracy," read the report.

The Carter Centre said the dynamics around the interpretation of the recall provision, which has been challenged in court several times since the adoption of the 2013 constitution, highlight the need for either scrapping or revising the recall provisions to prevent the abuse and manipulation of the provisions to subvert democratic processes.

"These challenges, particularly the ambiguities in the provisions, could be addressed through an amendment of the existing constitutional provisions of the Electoral Act to include recall provisions that are fair and offer balanced protection for the interests of political parties, the electorate, and the elected officials," they said.

The election observers said in a democracy, the power to recall a representative from public office is an important mechanism to ensure that representatives remain accountable to those they represent.

"Though the constitution's recall provision is intended to protect political parties and their supporters against defections, there are not sufficient safeguards to ensure that the provision is not open to abuse or manipulation by parties and leaders seeking to settle political scores," said the Carter Centre.

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