[JURIST] The Zimbabwean government has introduced a draft bill meant to reform the country's election procedures, the state owned Harare Herald [media website] reported Saturday. The Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 2007 would combine presidential and legislative elections and allow candidates to demand vote recounts. The bill would also prohibit the military, police, and prison officers, from interfering with elections, require that public broadcasters allow equal airtime to all candidates and report impartiality issues, and compel the state-run electoral commission to confer with parties before drawing constituency and ward boundaries. The bill is the result of an agreement [Dzimba report] reached in September by President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF [Wikipedia backgrounder] party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [Party website] and is expected to be submitted to parliament within 30 days.
Election procedures in Zimbabwe [JURIST archive] have been harshly criticized over the years by both the MDC and Western governments, largely stemming from the circumstances surrounding Mugabe's re-election in 2002. The European Union contended that the election was rigged in order to ensure Mugabe's victory and imposed sanctions [JURIST report] on Zimbabwe's senior officials in 2005 as retaliation. The US took similar steps in 2003 [State Department press release]. AFP has more.