<!-- IMAGE -->Critics of a proposed new electoral law now being debated by Zimbabwe's parliament say the measure provides no evidence that promised electoral reforms are on the way. The draft law which was presented to parliament last week by justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, sets up the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the authority which will run elections next March. The draft law describes this new authority as an independent authority. The draft law says that the chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will be appointed by President Robert Mugabe. Four commissioners will be chosen by Mr. Mugabe from a list of seven names nominated by a parliamentary committee dominated by the president's ruling ZANU-PF party. There is no provision in the draft law for any independent adjudication of those selected to run elections. Reginald Matchaba-Hove, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network says that the ZANU-PF government drew up this draft legislation without any consultation. He said there are no constitutional guarantees for the law, and he said the Zimbabwe Election Commission and its five executives will be subject to what he describes as the "whims and diktat" of justice minister Chinamasa. Mr. Matchaba-Hove says Zimbabweans need a new electoral environment and a truly independent electoral authority empowered through the constitution. He said this had not happened. In August, Mr. Mugabe signed a regional protocol on elections which demands that all member states of the Southern African Development Community, known as SADC, establish impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies. During debate in parliament, Mr. Chinamasa said the SADC electoral protocol was not binding on Zimbabwe nor did it require inclusivity. A host of controversial electoral laws were introduced before the presidential election in March 2002. With new elections only five months away, parliamentarians say there are no indications of pending legislation to repeal any of those laws which were widely criticized by most observers of the last national poll. Opposition Movement for Democratic Change parliament members say the new draft law to create the Zimbabwe Election Commission is no more than a smokescreen. It will be further debated in parliament on Tuesday.
Six weeks ago the MDC suspended participation in all elections until the ZANU-PF government enabled laws to bring all elections in line with the SADC electoral protocol for free and fair elections.