A top elections lobby group says the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) must redesign its presidential ballot paper which has infuriated President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s main challengers as it apparently gives the incumbent an unfair advantage over them.
There are 23 candidates vying for presidency with MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa seen as the main contender to Mnangagwa’s job.
ZEC, often accused of being biased towards the ruling Zanu PF party, has gone on to design and print a ballot paper with candidates placed in their name alphabetical order.
The current design is split into two columns; 14 for the first column and 9 candidates for second.
What has infuriated Zanu PF opponents is that Mnangagwa is placed top of the second column with claims this may have been deliberate.
In a statement Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) argued the current design gave President Mnangagwa an unfair advantage.
“ZESN notes that the split could have been done to ensure that there are 12 candidates on the one side and the remaining 11 on the other,” said the group.
“The ballot paper as it is, raises fears that it was designed to give the incumbent (Mnangagwa) an unfair advantage.
“In designing the Presidential ballot paper, ZEC should have adhered to the 2005 regulations which prescribe the Form V.10 as the design for the ballot paper.”
The NGO believes it was important for the Electoral Commission to engage key stakeholders on critical issues such as the design of ballot papers in order to safeguard the integrity and credibility of the 2018 election.
“ZESN believes that ZEC should have ensured that the ballot paper design was in conformity with the law to avoid fuelling allegations of partiality that could endanger the acceptance of the outcome of the election.
“ZESN reiterates its calls for ZEC to adopt the Open Data Policy and transparency in order to allay fears and misconceptions around key electoral processes,” said the poll group.
But in a radio interview Tuesday, ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said her commission was done with the printing of ballot papers, adding that the issue was now “non-negotiable”.
“It’s water under the bridge,” she quipped, “The difficulty is I must balance being nice and being liked and simply just telling the truth.”
Also in an interview with a privately owned weekly, Chigumba said the ballot paper would not have been designed with a single column as often demanded by others.
“The concerned one-column design by a concerned stakeholder would have resulted in a long ballot paper of A3 plus in size and required double the amount of paper. It would have been difficult for the folded paper to fit in the aperture of the ballot box because of size,” she said.