What are free & fair Elections?

In this video we look at every citizen’s right to free, fair and regular elections as found in section 67 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. This video is part of the Civics Academy Election Series for Zimbabwe.

Elections are a central feature of democracy. For elections to express the will of the electorate, they must be ‘free and fair’. ‘Free’ means that all those entitled to vote have the right to be registered and to vote and must be free to make their choice. 

In Zimbabwe every citizen over the age of 18 is entitled to vote. An election is considered ‘free’ when you can decide whether or not to vote and vote freely for the candidate or party of your choice without fear or intimidation. A ‘free’ election is also one where you are confident that who you vote for remains your secret. ‘Fair’ means that all registered political parties have an equal right to contest the elections, campaign for voter support and hold meetings and rallies. This gives them a fair chance to convince voters to vote for them. A fair election is also one in which all voters have an equal opportunity to register, where all votes are counted, and where the announced results reflect the actual vote totals. 

To ensure that an election is free and fair, it must be run by an independent body that is not influenced by the current government. It is usually called an electoral commission. In Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission – also called the ‘ZEC’ – is mandated to fulfil this task. The ZEC is constitutionally required to operate independently from government. It registers voters, manages and oversees election day, counts the votes and releases the election results in line with the Electoral Act of 2004. To be trusted, it is necessary for the ZEC to act in an open and transparent manner. It must publish the names of all registered voters, in other words the voters’ roll, and must announce election results to the public. Representatives of political parties and ZEC staff serve on multiparty liaison committees at national, constituency and local authority level. They hold meetings to allow for consultation and cooperation between the ZEC and the registered parties on all electoral matters, aimed at the delivery of free and fair elections. The Electoral Court has the power to review the correctness and procedural fairness of any decision taken by the ZEC. It also hears election related appeals, applications and petitions.

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