12 July 2013

Zimbabwe: Polls' Credibility Already Damaged

Photo: Trevor Magwagwa
MDC-T and Zanu PF supporters together.

editorial

NOW that all political parties are geared for the general elections scheduled for July 31, it is time to assess the credibility and legitimacy of the polls Zimbabweans will be participating in as they seek to break an over-a-decade political stalemate triggered by disputed results since 2000.

Following the bloody June 2008 presidential election run-off and the rejection of President Robert Mugabe's fake victory, the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which led to the formation of the current coalition government, was signed to provide the country with a respite to prepare for fresh free and fair elections.

The GPA was basically a roadmap to elections, with necessary reforms and signposts showing what needed to be done before peaceful and credible polls were held.

Throughout the four-year tenure of the inclusive government, parties, principals and Sadc leaders, via their facilitator South African President Jacob Zuma and their summits, battled to implement the GPA reforms and the attendant roadmap, although Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai lost the plot and allowed Mugabe to defy demands for reform while regrouping to subvert the people's will.

Sadc leaders, guided by the GPA roadmap, Zuma and the regional body's principles and guidelines governing democratic elections, did their best until the very last minute as shown by their recent Maputo summit where the two MDC parties tried to close the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Despite that some reforms, particularly the new constitution, were delivered by the wrangling coalition government, some key issues were not addressed to ensure free and fair elections. The state machinery which organises or has a bearing on the electoral process, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Registrar-General's office, military, judiciary and public media, remain intact, meaning the people accused of manipulating and rigging elections remain in place.

Having been allowed off the hook, the recidivist Mugabe started acting unilaterally to force through elections on his own terms. Thus on June 13 he proclaimed July 31 as the election date after a controversial Constitutional Court (Concourt) ruling which demanded polls be held by that date.

Events have shown clearly Zanu PF was behind the dubious application which led to the flawed ruling that will have a far-reaching impact on the electoral process and election outcome.

Even though Concourt judges, who always rule in favour of Mugabe before every election, claimed his proclamation and amendments to the Electoral Act were proper, lawyers maintain they were unconstitutional and illegal.

These aberrations, coupled with voter registration chaos and disenfranchisement of thousands who were not registered, means this election is fraught with illegalities that seriously threaten citizens' rights to freely and fairly participate in the democratic process.

Given how messy the electoral process has been, it is clear the credibility and legitimacy -- naturally including the possible outcome -- of the elections has been badly damaged.

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InFocus

Has SADC Failed the Zimbabwean People?

MDC-T and Zanu PF supporters together.

As Zimbabwe holds general elections this month, analysts wonder if the Southern African Development Community has done enough to gaurantee a poll that is not a repeat of 2008. Read more »