© YESTERDAY, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) joined Zimbabwe and the world at large in commemorating International Day of Democracy which was this year running under the theme, “Participation”.
This day comes amid continued calls by civic society and institutions supporting democracy for multi-stakeholder efforts towards the promotion of inclusion, equal treatment, and participation in democratic governance issues by citizens to ensure sustainable peace and development.
Participation is perhaps the most critical tenet of democracy implied in the popular definition of ‘rule of the people, by the people, for the people’.
In connection with this, Zimbabwe is signatory to a number of International and Regional Human Rights instruments and protocols, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose article 21 (3) particularly states that: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”.
Consistently, Section 3 (2) (f) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, under Founding Values and Principles reposes the authority to govern in the people of Zimbabwe. Section 2 (b) elaborates on the elements of the electoral system that include universal adult suffrage and free, fair, and regular elections.
This day presented Zesn with the opportunity to reiterate its calls for measures to ensure inclusive participation in elections, especially of women, People with Disabilities (PWDs), and youths in Zimbabwe.
Despite the fact that women constitute the demographic majority, and youths account for the largest voting population, their participation, especially as candidates, in elections has been very low.
This has resulted in the limited representation and participation of these important constituencies in the governance of the country.
Zesn is concerned with the civic space that is shrinking and therefore calls upon the government to have meaningful social dialogue with civic society, churches, and the media among others to ensure participation of all stakeholders in democratic electoral and governance issues.
The main goal of social dialogue is to promote consensus and building democratic involvement among main electoral stakeholders.
The Network has also petitioned Parliament on electoral reforms as part of efforts to lobby government to promote and enhance democracy, transparency, and an effective democratic electoral system by addressing gaps in the legal framework of elections.
The gaps include non-alignment of the Electoral Act with the Constitution with only amendments that have been piecemeal, diaspora voting; legal provisions in relation to political parties’ regulation and funding; electoral dispute resolution and mechanisms; political environment reforms, and the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission among others.
Zesn remains committed to promoting democratic elections in Zimbabwe that are free and fair in line with international best practices and respect for human rights.