The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 May 2013
The pervasive fear of violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe’s 2013 elections contradicts political leaders’ rhetorical commitments to peace, and raises concerns that the country may not be ready to go to the polls.
Zimbabwe: Election Scenarios, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, reviews developments in what remains an inchoate political environment, and describes possible paths towards elections, expected to be held between July and November this year.
Zimbabwe’s Inclusive Government – the country’s uneasy power-sharing experiment, based on a 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA) between, principally, President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party – averted greater political violence and repression. But it has not delivered political or economic stability.
A reasonably free, conclusive vote is still possible, but so too are disputed polls or even a military intervention by security officials supporting, and profiting from, Mugabe’s continued rule.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- There is lack of consensus and clarity among the GPA partners on reforms following the 16 March constitutional referendum. The country must not rush into elections before addressing these concerns as well as the practical implementation of necessary reforms. Without these, deferring the vote may be appropriate.
- The Southern African Development Community (SADC), in particular South Africa, remains central to shaping a credible vote and legitimising its outcome. SADC must convene a heads of state summit on Zimbabwe that emphasises compliance with the community’s “Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections”. It should also establish a liaison office in Harare to monitor and evaluate electoral preparations; define strict benchmarks for compliance by the GPA parties; and establish clear monitoring and observation roles in the election.
- Pro-democracy institutions established under the GPA need much more support. The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, in particular, needs to be enhanced through urgent permanent deployment of SADC officials; deployment of additional monitors in the provinces; independent investigation of alleged interference by state security forces in politics; and extension of its mandate to cover the entire election period and its aftermath.
“Continued violations of the GPA, the lack of reform and the recent rejection of a UN election needs assessment mission suggest that conditions for peaceful, credible elections are not yet in place”, says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director.
“The new constitution could provide the basis for moving forward, but its immediate political impact will be limited and it is unlikely to ensure free and fair elections”.
“Elections in a context of acute divisions will not provide stability”, says Piers Pigou, Southern Africa Project Director.
“The Southern African Development Community must define and enforce the necessary minimum conditions for a credible vote, and ensure the country does not rush into elections before there is clarity and consensus on – and implementation of – necessary reforms”.
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