The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by former Finance minister Tendai Biti has lost its bid to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to change the composition of the ballot paper that is set to be used for the presidential candidates in the forthcoming general elections set for Monday next week.
High Court judge Justice David Mangota delivered the judgment, dismissing PDP’s application on Thursday this week, saying the political outfit’s application was devoid of merit.
In its court application, the Biti-led party had petitioned the court, demanding an order declaring that the current ballot paper’s design was inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Electoral Act and the principal electoral regulations.
PDP had also sought for an order to have the presidential ballot paper redesigned in a manner prescribed by law, where the names are listed in alphabetical order and another order to stop the electoral body from posting ballot papers for the presidential election to applicants who had applied for postal voting.
However, in his determination Justice Mangota dismissed the application with costs, saying Zec had acted within the confines of the law.
“The applicant (PDP) failed to establish a prima facie case. It hinged its argument on the form as opposed to the substance of the ballot paper. Its case stands on nothing. It is completely devoid of merit. It is, in the premise, dismissed with costs,” Justice Mangota said.
The judge, however, went on to commend the change in administration that took place last November, leading to the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe ushering in his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“The November 2017 development which ushered in the new administration in Zimbabwe is unique in a number of respects.
It is unique in the sense that, for the first time in the history of independent Zimbabwe, 124 political parties were formed between the dawn of the new dispensation and this moment … and the political space with which the new administration opened is unprecedented,” Justice Mangota said.
In its application, PDP had claimed Zec had not given contesting political parties and presidential candidates access to the ballot paper to allow them to participate effectively in the electoral process in contravention of section 155 (2) (c) of the Constitution.
The party had also claimed Zec proceeded to conduct postal voting for the election of a President without the presidential candidates having had access to the ballot paper.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary watchdog Veritas Zimbabwe says the 2018 presidential ballot paper was manipulated for favour incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
It argues that while number of candidates at 23 is unprecedented, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should have printed the names in alphabetical order in one single column instead of the two it printed.
Even when it chose to print the two columns, these should have at least been balanced with one column having 12 candidates and the other 11, but in the present case, one has 14 and the other nine.
“ZEC’s columns, one with 14 names and one with nine, are artfully designed to ensure that the President has the advantage of heading the second column. There can be no legitimate reason for this.” Veritas argued.