Political parties in the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) platform have made a declaration on electoral reforms that need to be implemented before the 2023 harmonised elections. In a statement seen by Pindula News, POLAD listed six (6) major reforms which must be implemented, among them the need for the state to widen political parties funding to enhance multi-party democracy. Reads the statement:
We the Political Actors at an Extra-Ordinary Executive Plenary Meetings on Electoral Reforms held on the 17th of December, 2021 and the 14th of January 2022 for the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD),
Whereas, we recognise that electoral reforms arc pertinent in conducting free and fair elections,
Whereas, we recognise that there is need for organised and structured contestation of elections,
Whereas, we recognise that there are institutions and legal frameworks that facilitate the conducting of elections. There is need to enhance and strengthen the electoral processes,
And whereas, we are committed to the common understanding that we remain united in our common purpose to dialogue with the intention of resolving the issues affecting the nation, in particular electoral reforms,
Now, therefore, we have resolved to adopt and recommend the following electoral reforms that affect the Electoral Act:
Reform 1: All election-related laws to be in the Electoral Act
Access to the electoral law by all political actors must be easy and the law itself must not be complicated. Ideally, all electoral laws must be found in one Code. This is not the case now: political party financing is in its own legislation, the regulation of political rallies and other political meetings is in a separate statute while access to the media by political actors during the election season is shrouded in mystery and is regulated outside the Electoral Act. It is proposed that all election-related laws must be in the Electoral Act. Thus, the Political Parties (Finance) Act must be repealed and all its provisions transferred to the Electoral Act. The regulation of political rallies and political meetings during an election season must be in the Electoral Act and not MOPA. Special access to the public media during an election season must be provided for in the Electoral Act and not the Broadcasting Services Act.
Reform 2: State funding of political parties must be widened to promote multi-party democracy.
The current system of state funding of political parties does not promote the growth of a truly democratic multi-party system. It does not take into account all votes cast in a general election. It has a very high minimum threshold of 5% of votes cast and it does not consider votes cast for the President and for local councillors.
It is proposed that the Political Parties (Finance) Act be amended to take into account all three elections namely Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Authorities for participating political parties. The minimum threshold must be reduced to less than 5%.
Reform 3: Regulation of political campaign meetings must be kept to a bare minimum during the period from the proclamation of elections up to polling day
Political campaign meetings during the period from the proclamation of elections up to polling day following flexible arrangements:
• Door-to-door campaigns: police notified for record purposes only.
• Meetings of less than SO people indoors: police notified for record purposes only.
• Meetings of less than 100 people open space: police notified for record purposes only.
• All other political campaign meetings: 2 days’ notice to the police.
Reform 4: The Electoral Act must have a specific provision giving each political party fielding candidates in an election a free statutory cumulative minimum two-hour period on each public media platform to propagate its campaign message and a minimum of five articles provided the allocation of time must be proportionate to the number of candidates fielded by the participating political party.
Access to the public media during the election season, particularly radio and television, is uneven. This must be remedied by a legislated two-hour free slot during prime time viewing for every political party participating in the election and minimum of five (5) articles at least on pages with odd numbers. In addition ZMC must monitor fair coverage of all Political Parties in the public media.
Reform 5: The formula for the 30% female quota in local authorities recently introduced by the Constitution must be provided for in the Electoral Act in time for 2023.
The Constitution now provides for a 30% female quota in respect of councillors for local authorities but the Electoral Act has not yet made provision for how the female quota is to be filled. It is proposed that this be done immediately and that the formula currently being used for the female quota in Parliament be used subject to the following difference: the party list of each contesting political party must be headed by a woman who is either less than 35 years of age or is living with disability.
Reform 6: ZEC regulations must be promulgated at least 6 months before the elections.
Save in exceptional circumstances, any regulations that ZEC is mandated by law to promulgate to govern a general election must be promulgated at least 6 months before the election. For the avoidance of doubt such regulations must include any amounts of money that candidates may be required to pay.