Parliamentary, legal and civil rights watchdog, Veritas, has said that there was an inexplicable delay in announcing the results of the presidential election by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. In a commentary, Veritas writes,
Inexplicable Delay in Announcing Presidential Results
Process for Counting Presidential Votes
The legal processes for counting, verifying and collating votes cast in the Presidential election are laid down by the Electoral Act and incorporated into ZEC’s Electoral Officers Manual. They are as follows:
At the polling station
The ballot papers in the Presidential election must be counted first. This must be done in the presence of candidates or their election agents and accredited observers. During the counting process and until the count has been finalised and recorded on the polling station return [form V.11], no-one is allowed to enter or exit the counting room. After the presidential votes have been counted, the constituency votes are counted, following the same procedure, and then the ward votes. The totals are entered on three separate V.11 forms, one for each election.
The polling station V.11 forms must be signed by the polling station presiding officer as a correct record of the votes cast at the polling station. His/her signature must be followed by the name and signature of the person who witnesses the presiding officer signing the form. The complete returns must be shown to those present and each candidate or his/her election agent must be given an opportunity to sign the forms as a correct statement of all votes cast [no candidate or agent is obliged to sign].
The certified polling station V11 forms for each election – ward, constituency and Presidential, must be affixed outside the polling station. Certified V11 forms, one for each election, must also be provided to each candidate or polling agent present. One further certified form for each election must be sealed in the appropriate ballot box along with the counted ballots, and another one of each must go to the Ward Elections Officer.
Note: at this stage copies of the V.11 forms also go direct to the Chief Elections Officer at ZEC National Command Centre in Harare
The ward elections officer totals the number of votes cast for that ward from the numbers of votes on the V.11 ward form. These totals must be entered onto V.23A forms – one for each election. Again they have to be verified, signed by the ward elections officer, witnessed, and signed by candidates’ election agents if present. One copy of each of the V.23A forms must be posted outside the ward collation centre and the results of the council election for the ward must be officially announced by the ward elections officer.
From there all the totals for the constituency and Presidential elections that have been entered on V.23A forms, one for each election [and they must be accompanied by the supporting original polling station V.11 forms] go to the constituency elections centre where they are verified and collated on V.23B forms. These forms must be posted outside the constituency election centre and the constituency results must be announced.
Note at this stage the total votes for the Presidential elections from each constituency are in the public domain as they have been posted outside the constituency collation centre. The candidates could easily collate them and find out the results, but no one is allowed to announce them at this stage.
Only the ZEC Chairperson is allowed to officially announce the Presidential results.
From the constituency offices the V.23B forms [constituency results and Presidential results totalled at constituency level], accompanied by the original polling station V.11 forms are transmitted to the Chief Elections officer at the ZEC National Command Centre in Harare.
The totals on the V.23B forms are collated and verified with the results on the V.11 forms for the Presidential elections. Anyone experienced in using Excel spread sheets could do this simply and quickly.
As the V.11 forms were sent straight to the ZEC National Command Centre in Harare the arithmetic could have been done immediately to verify the later returns coming in via the ward and constituency officers.
And then the results should be announced
Quote from today’s edition of The Herald:
“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] says it will start releasing results of the Presidential eletions from the constituencies across the country after completing the legal processes prescribed by law. … Justice Priscilla Chigumba said after the release of the constituency results, the electoral body will proceed to announce the full tally from the Presidential results.
She said collation of the Presidential results is done at the National Results Centre and the V.11 form returns are already at the centre for verification in the presence of all the 23 Presidential candidates’ representatives.
“The presidential candidates’ agents have to be there for the verification process,” said Justice Chigumba. “They have to sift through the V11 forms and actually agree with the tally.”
This is not correct. Candidates’ agents do not have to be present at this verification process. They merely have to be notified of the time and place and given an opportunity to be present [Electoral Act, section 110(3)(c)to (e)].
Candidates’ agents had the opportunity to check the V.11 forms at the polling stations, the totals on the V.23A forms at the ward centres and the totals on the V.23B forms at the constituency centres. The idea that a candidate’s agent can hold up the final announcement of results by his or her absence is not credible
The delays in announcing results, and the specious reasons given for them, are just causing suspicion and taking many Zimbabwean back to the bad memories of the 2008 elections where similar delays led to disputed results.