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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Zimbabwe's Presidential Elections, 2013

The Dissonances of a Three-Part Zimbabwe Election
‘There is nothing that can be done to make this election free and fair.’ (Rejoice Ngwenya, political analyst, quoted in The Zimbabwean, Vol.9/No.27, July 2013).

The violence that followed the first round of elections in 2008 still looms large in voters’ minds, but that is not the only reason these elections are likely to be a poor example of a democratic process. The voters roll is incomplete and flawed and the registration process was found wanting, electoral institutions and political parties are not ready for an election and the money is not available and no one is prepared to foot the bill. Although some independent election observers are now in place, their numbers are insufficient and their arrival too late.
Violence may have decreased (though not ceased) since 2008, but as the saying goes ‘If you burn down someone’s house, next time all you need is to rattle the matchbox’. Credible reports of intimidation abound. The process of ‘special voting’ for members of the armed forces two weeks ago (14-15 July) was described by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as ‘chaotic’ and casts doubt on whether or not the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is sufficiently prepared to handle the forthcoming elections. This leaves voting in the main round of elections on 31 July extremely vulnerable to manipulation.
Before an election is held, some activists in civil society believe the electoral roll should be inspected to give the South African Development Community (SADC) confidence that they can ensure and observe a free and fair election. Some civil society organisations have already examined the roll and found gross inadequacies. The recent report by the Zimbabwean NGO Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) (whose launch was forbidden by the High Court of Zimbabwe) illustrates severe discrepancies which cast doubts over the credibility of the election result.
The report shows for example how 63 of the 210 constituencies had more registered voters than inhabitants (as indicated by the 2012 census). Furthermore, an unlikely number of over 116.000 people aged over 100 are still on the roll. Besides these discrepancies the nearly 2 million voters aged under 30 that are not registered are a further indication that the Voters Roll is not up to date.
The dissolution of the Inclusive Government means that Mugabe is, in practical terms, able to determine policy unilaterally, evinced by the recent appointment of judges. This worries many in civil society. Harassment of journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers and supporters of the former opposition have already been detailed in reports issued by Amnesty International. Marked partiality by security forces continues despite the recent constitution forbidding this. The same constitution also guarantees free and fair elections. There are new claims of possible violence, intimidation and voter rigging being made. Allegedly the number of military personnel listed exceeds the actual number of those employed.
Such concerns of continued violence and intimidation contradict the rhetorical commitments to peace. ZANU-PF have said that they will restrict accreditation of international observers to their allies, acting as though they were the sole occupant of government, instead of one candidate for office. Security forces have declared their allegiance to ZANU-PF and have repeatedly announced that they are not prepared to serve under any other President than President Robert Mugabe. This raises fears of violence in the event that any other party than ZANU-PF wins the elections.
To summarise, despite improvements in Zimbabwe's political and economic situation and the implementation of some reforms, crucial steps have not been taken. This has resulted in a realisation that free and fair elections are not likely in the current Zimbabwe, which in turn has led many to call (and hope) for 'credible' elections. The international community is focusing on what patterns emerge from local, regional, diplomatic and media observations and will make their own assessments on how free and fair the elections have been. Nonetheless, they have stated they will be relying on SADC’s judgement to make the final call on the credibility of the elections.
It remains a concern that the international community in its wish to see Zimbabwe reintegrated into their ranks seems eager to label the elections credible. Although as stated, the government has been dissolved, many analysts expect some similar post-electoral arrangement – a result that SADC and the international community would probably welcome in terms of national and regional stability, but which may not reflect the aspirations and actual experience of Zimbabwe citizens and would-be voters.

In our consultations with civil society in Zimbabwe, calls were made for the following:
· for Zimbabweans to have the right to vote freely for whom they wish without fear or
          favour (without external interference or internal intimidation),
· an accurate and up to date voter roll,
· fair access to and coverage by state controlled media,
· impartiality by institutions of the state,
· domestic election observers and truly independent external election observer
          missions in place well before the election.

SADC additionally asked for:
· media reform,
· equal access to Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) – the monitoring board on implementation of the GPA run by the three main parties,
· upholding of the rule of law,
· deployment of SADC observers and for the election to be delayed until such reforms could be initiated.

Given that none of this now appears likely either (apart from the presence of SADC observers) the credibility of the forthcoming elections is questionable. The following recommendations and actions by SADC and the international community are vital in pushing for credible elections in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Europe Network recommends that:
· The Zimbabwe government and SADC as guarantor of the GPA ensure that the Government of Zimbabwe respects the rights to freedom of assembly, speech, and opinion as outlined in the constitution, and international and regional conventions such as the SADC electoral protocol that the government has signed.
· The Zimbabwe government should ensure strict and unhindered monitoring and observation of  the electoral process.
· The Zimbabwe government and SADC as guarantor of the GPA ensure the timely announcement of election results (unlike 2008) as called for in the constitution – five days is the time allowed.
· The international community, including the EU and member states, play their part in holding to account/ persuading SADC in ensuring this is as free and fair election as is possible in the context outlined, including systematic reporting of any irregularities and intimidation.
· Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to respond appropriately and promptly to any violation of electoral law or human rights.
· Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to act with impartiality and to protect all from political violence and investigate impartially all alleged violations, and the judiciary to adhere to the constitution and the (electoral) law.
Zimbabwe Europe Network recommends the following to regional and international observers:
· Report all violations to the relevant authorities and be aware that violations occurring outside polling stations should also be included in any reports. Given that levels of outright violence may well be diminished, there is need to follow up reported incidents of intimidation that could result in a non-free and fair election.
· Observe rural and other hard to reach constituencies, where the most extreme election results and irregularities occurred in 2008.
· Liaise with local independent Church and civil society observers to get as wide a picture as possible and for direct observation of all infringements.

Finally in the wider context we believe that the inclusion of more pro-poor policies by the parties running for office, along with serious plans for implementation, should be high on the agenda in order to contribute to broader transformation in the lives of Zimbabweans. Restoring and consolidating the rule of law, judicial institutions and human rights as well as initiating sustainable economic policies and enterprises are crucial for a democratic state and sustainable, pro-poor economic development to take root.

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