This is a press release, just received. For the context to this please see our previous post:
REQUEST FOR A RECOUNT OF PRESIDENTIAL BALLOTS BEFORE RESULTS ARE ANNOUNCED IS UNPROCEDURAL AND PREMATURE
The state-controlled Sunday Mail edition of 6-12 April 2008 contains a front-page story indicating that ZANU-PF has requested the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to "recount and audit all its election material relating to last week's presidential election following revelations of errors and miscalculations in the compilation of the poll result".
Should this report be accurate, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) wishes to express its grave concern at such unprocedural action which has the potential to compromise the entire electoral process.
Assumedly, the Chief Elections Officer is purporting to currently be in the verification, collation and addition phase of the presidential election results from the constituencies although this cannot be confirmed due to the lack of information from ZEC and the non-transparency of the entire process. ZLHR understands "verification" to entail scrutiny of the original returns from the constituency centres to ensure that they have not been tampered with. Verification does not include reopening ballot boxes, and re-scrutinizing and recounting ballot papers. In relation to a presidential election, the Electoral Act, as amended, does not have any provision for a recount of the votes at all, and especially during the verification process.
Should reliance be placed on the recount provisions relating to a dispute about a duly declared member of the House of Assembly or Senate, then such a recount can only be requested once the declaration of due election has been made by the constituency elections officer or the senatorial constituency elections officer respectively.
Section 67 A (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act, as amended, set out the procedure for recounting of votes on the written request of a candidate for a constituency. Such recount must be done within 48 hours of the declaration of a candidate to be duly elected. The party requesting the recount must also set out the number of votes believed to have been miscounted, how the miscount occurred (if known), and how the results have been affected by the alleged miscount. The recount will be allowed where ZEC considers that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the alleged miscount occurred and that, if it did occur, it would have affected the result of the election. Representatives of the contesting political parties and accredited observers are entitled to be advised of the date, place and time of the recount and to observe the process.
Best international practice would require that the same procedure be followed in respect of dispute of the results of the presidential election.
The Second Schedule (Section 110) of the Electoral Act, as amended, stipulates that once the votes from each constituency have been added together, the Chief Elections Officer shall forthwith declare the winning candidate to be duly elected. It is only after such a declaration that a request for a recount can be made.
ZLHR is further concerned that the inordinate delay in releasing the results of the presidential election, coupled with the lack of information as to the whereabouts and security of the ballot boxes during this time, has created a perception in the minds of the ordinary interested voter and member of the public that tampering may have occurred, which would compromise the integrity of the election material in any recount.
ZLHR has written urgently to the Chairperson of ZEC to provide information in this regard.
In the meantime, we reiterate our call to the Chief Elections Officer of ZEC to announce the results of the presidential election forthwith, and to ensure that ZEC maintains and displays its independence in carrying out its duties in terms of the law. We further condemn the attempts of an interested party to unlawfully influence the electoral process by pressuring ZEC to undertake illegal and unprocedural processes, thus further delaying the announcement of the results.