Vote counting is underway in Zimbabwe following a constitutional referendum on Saturday with critics questioning the credibility of the yes vote due to a low turnout nationwide.
Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee co-chairman, Douglas Mwonzora of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said unofficial results show that Zimbabweans overwhelmingly voted for the draft constitution.
“We are very happy that the results so far indicate an overwhelming yes vote. Interestingly or what is of importance is the atmosphere under which this referendum was held. People were able to cast their votes freely and voluntarily,” he said.
Mr. Mwonzora said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is expected to release the results of the referendum as soon as vote the vote verification process is complete.
“Thereafter, the document will be brought to parliament for formal promulgation into an act of parliament … and it will then be signed by the president,” he said.
He noted that there are transition arrangements that have been put in place to ensure that the unity government will be operating after the draft is formally adopted as the country’s supreme law.
Mr. Mwonzowa further said after the adoption of the document into a piece of legislation, “parliament must start a process of rationalizing all laws to be consistent with provisions of the new constitution.”
Effie Dlela Ncube, chairman of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, said the low voter turnout will dent the credibility of the country’s new constitution.
“The most important question is the number of people who turned out to vote. That will be the basis to test the legitimacy of the new constitution. One expects at least 80 percent of voters to turnout to endorse such a document,” said Ncube.
There are more than six registered voters in Zimbabwe with a population of over 12 million people. Unregistered voters were expected to also cast their votes in the referendum though people who were regarded as aliens were turned away at polling stations.
According to Reuters news agency, ZEC said an estimated 2 million people cast their vote in the constitutional referendum.
Judge Rita Makarau, head of the electoral commission, said Sunday the low estimate came from early returns from the nation's 9,400 polling stations.
In its preliminary report of the March 16 referendum, the Southern African Development Community’s Electoral Observer Mission commended Zimbabwe for conducting what it called a peaceful constitutional referendum.
Head of the mission, Bernard Membe, said despite minor challenges, the referendum was a success and credible.
The SADC observer team commended ZEC for conducting the referendum procedurally, particularly the counting and collation of results at polling stations.
The team also urged the nation to maintain the peace that prevailed during the referendum as the country prepares for harmonised elections.
It recommended, among other issues, for a timeous availability of election funds and continuous voter education.