THE International Crisis Group (ICG) has called for the formation of a democratic alliance between the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and civil society to f
orce the ruling Zanu PF government to comply with Sadc norms and standards on free and fair elections.
The ICG says the envisaged alliance would make a strong regional diplomatic offensive and formulate smart strategies for non-violent protests that will bring pressure to bear on the ruling party to ensure conditions for free and fair elections in 2005.
Zanu PF intends to win the March 2005 parliamentary election at any cost. The party has effectively banned civic meetings by enacting repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act, retired impartial judges, militarised political stru-ctures, and systematically arrested and beaten activists.
“Zanu PF not only wants to win, but it wants a two-thirds majority to make constitutional amendments that entrench its rule under (President Robert) Mugabe,” the ICG said in a statement sent to the Zimbabwe Independent.
“It has no intention of conducting free and fair elections but will endeavour to garner as much legitimacy as possible in the process, especially in the eyes of its Sadc allies.”
The ICG said Zimbabweans and the international community, especially Sadc countries, should agree on benchmarks and a timeframe to ensure that the electoral process in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s forthcoming parliamentary election meets the Sadc norms and standards for free and fair elections, a protocol to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
High levels of violence and intimidation have characterised all recent Zimbabwean elections.
The ICG said if the MDC ignores recommendations to set benchmarks for the forthcoming parliamentary vote, it will be trapped in a fundamental strategic dilemma.
“If it contests the elections it will legitimise a patently flawed electoral process, managed and controlled entirely by the ruling party. When it loses the election, as it clearly must, its plaintive cry that the election was neither free nor fair will be ignored by invited observers,” the ICG said.
“If, on the other hand, it boycotts the election, it would lose all its seats without a fight, and leave every government institution in the hands of the ruling party. It should also be remembered that if, against all odds, the MDC won the election, the president and his executive would still hold the reins of power. This power could be exercised to severely curtail the effectiveness of an MDC-dominated legislature,” the ICG said.
To avoid this dilemma, the group said, it was imperative that an international consensus is found on the dividing line between a relatively free and fair election process and one that is so flawed that it should be declared null and void.