It’s officially election season: Zimbabweans vote on August 23

Proclamation officially opens campaign season (pic: ZINYANGE AUNTONY /AFP)

Zimbabweans go to elections on August 23, President Emmerson Mnangagwa says in a gazette that officially kicks off the election season.

The nomination day, when candidates are registered to stand in the election, will be on June 21. Should no candidate get over 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held on October 2.

Nomination must be 14 and 21 days after the proclamation, and voting day must be between 30 and 63 days after nomination day, according to electoral laws.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) opened the voters’ roll for inspection at the weekend, a process that opposition officials say has revealed errors on the register. Today’s proclamation means that new voters only have two more days to register to be included on the voters’ roll for this year’s election.

It also means that electoral reforms that were being debated in Parliament will now no longer apply to this poll. This is because no amendments can be made to electoral laws once a proclamation of the date has been done.

The election will be held using boundaries demarcated by ZEC’s delimitation process, which was concluded earlier this year. ZEC’s demarcation of boundaries was criticised by both sides of the aisle when it came before Parliament. MPs from ZANU PF and the opposition, CCC and MDC-T, said the electoral commission had made grave errors in the report, including using wrong formulas to distribute voters among the 210 constituencies. A court challenge by Douglas Mwonzora to set aside that delimitation report was dismissed.

Electoral reforms

In Parliament, MPs were discussing an Electoral Amendment Bill, which the opposition had hoped to have passed before elections were proclaimed. The Bill provides for the election of 10 youths to the National Assembly and continues the election of 60 women to the National Assembly under a party-list system. The opposition is also pressing for a Diaspora vote, a law to keep all voting returns open to the public two months after the election, for observers to be allowed six months before polls, and for a voters’ roll with voters’ pictures on it.

The Bill would also bar people convicted of certain crimes from standing for office.

Was there a delay in the proclamation of the date?

The timing of the proclamation is in line with the previous election. In 2018, Mnangagwa proclaimed the July 30 election on May 30. In 2013, then-President Robert Mugabe proclaimed the July 31 election on June 13, after a court ruling compelling him to do so.

According to the law, the poll must be held by August 26 to comply with Constitutional regulations that the election must come not more than 30 days after the expiry period of the current Parliament and six months after the delimitation report has been gazetted. A proclamation can only be made between 44-88 days before the election date.