Zimbabwe’s elections: anything but fair
Zimbabwe’s rushed elections last week seem to have produced two wildly different outcomes. President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party seem to be the acknowledged victors. But at the same time, most observers have decided that the election was anything but fair.
The Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee (SATUCC) concluded that:
“the 2013 harmonised elections to a large extent lack credibility and fail to pass the free and fairness test.”
This suggests that the elections haven’t settled anything, and the country is in for prolonged uncertainty and instability. The fate of the people seems yet again to depend on what external forces region – decide to do next.
On the positive side, the violence that marred previous polls was clearly much reduced, and Zimbabwe is a more prosperous country – though still terribly poor and riven with inequality – than it was at the last election, due largely to the management of the economy by the MDC-T party led by Prime Minister and former union leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Some electoral observers – all from Africa because the ruling Mugabe clique refused to accredit US or European monitors – assessed the elections as free. But few have suggested that they were fair. Around a million voters were held to have been disenfranchised by inadequate or biased electoral registration; state media coverage in the run up to the elections was anything but balanced; and the potential for voter fraud was widespread. Ian Birrell is, as usual, scabrously scathing about an election that he says was blatantly stolen with the collusion of Chinese and Israeli interests.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) concluded that:
“The ZCTU believes that the elections were stage managed and Zimbabweans were taken on a garden path. … the 2013 elections, besides lacking credibility, were neither free nor fair.”
SATUCC fielded an excellent team of electoral monitors, including the local Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), as did the domestic NGO coalition ZESN. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) brought in 721 observers, and has produced an interim report that is more eloquent in what it doesn’t say than what it does. Diplomats on the ground provided Governments like the UK’s with evidence to cast severe doubt on the elections’ validity.
SATUCC concluded in its report (not yet on the web) that:
“The credibility of the harmonised elections is greatly compromised by the failure by the ZEC and the Office of the Registrar-General of Voters to release and make available both the electronic and hard copies of the voters roll to contesting political partners until on the eve of the voting day.”
“This seemingly systematic trend at almost each polling station visited disenfranchised a huge number of voters now estimated at about a million voters by ZESN again compromising the credibility as well as the fairness of the elections.”
“The 2013 Zimbabwe harmonised elections also failed to meet a number of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections among them the following; (i) full participation of citizens in political processes for reasons cited in 2 and 3 above; (ii) equal opportunity for all political parties access state media; (iii) equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for; and (iv) voter education.”
Many – such as the Botswana and British Governments – are calling for the election to be audited, echoing the calls of the ZCTU and the MDC-T. SADC hasn’t yet gone that far, and its report concluded only that the process had been “free and peaceful,” thus leaving regional governments’ options open.