By NQOBANI NDLOVU
THE upcoming delimitation exercise is likely to be “academic”, with the country forced to hold 2023 elections under previous constituency boundaries, an election watchdog warned, calling on the government to re-think timelines for the delimitation process.
Government last week announced that the population census will kick off in April next year with results expected in August, while the delimitation exercise — creation of new electoral boundaries — is expected to start in October, ending in December 2022.
Delimitation is provided for under section 161(1) of the Constitution on Delimitation of Electoral Boundaries.
Section 161 (2) states that if a “delimitation exercise is completed less than six months before an election, the boundaries so delimited do not apply to that election and instead the boundaries that existed immediately before the delimitation are applicable.”
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) argued that timelines proposed by government will, therefore, compromise the delimitation process ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“Zesn is worried that the result of the delimitation may become academic if the exercise is completed six months before the elections, making it impossible for Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to use the drawn boundaries for the harmonised elections scheduled for July 2023,” the independent election watchdog said.
“Taking into account that the current electoral boundaries are arguably no longer representative of the voters with the last delimitation exercise conducted in 2008, Zesn urges the government to give Zec ample time to conduct a thorough and quality process so that new electoral boundaries can be used in the next election.
“The network, therefore, calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to bring forward the date of commencement of the census so that the delimitation exercise is completed before December 2022.”
The last delimitation exercise, conducted in terms of the old Constitution ahead of the 2008 elections and based on the Registrar-Generals’ voters roll, saw the opposition crying foul that their strongholds were halved.
Zesn argued that delimitation should be transparent and inclusive, adding that a three-month timeline for the exercise is “too short, too tight and the opportunity to build confidence, trust and ownership of the process, through engagement of citizens and key electoral stakeholders will be lost.”
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