AD177: Popular trust in national electoral commission a question mark as Zimbabwe enters new era

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Dispatches
2017
177
Stephen Ndoma

As Zimbabwe moves into a new era following its dramatic change in leadership, all eyes will be on the 2018 elections as a referendum on the people’s will and a test of progress toward freedom and fairness in its democratic practices. A central player will be the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which is charged with preparing, conducting, and supervising all national and local elections. 

While managing three parliamentary and two presidential elections since taking over from the Electoral Supervisory Commission and Registrar General in 2004, the ZEC, whose members are appointed by the president, has frequently been accused of bias and incompetence (see, for example, NewZimbabwe.com, 2013). 

Given that public trust in the national electoral commission is “instrumental to the overall credibility of elections and to democratic legitimacy more broadly” (Roberts, Gordon, & Struwig, 2016), how do Zimbabweans perceive the ZEC? Afrobarometer survey data collected in early 2017 suggest that popular trust in the ZEC remains feeble despite some improvement. Findings point to better-educated citizens, opposition supporters, and other sub-groups where building trust will require concerted efforts.