MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said government’s proposed electoral reforms will fail unless there is a change in the political environment.
The remarks followed President Robert Mugabe’s address at the opening of parliament on Tuesday in which he mooted “far reaching reforms to our electoral law”.
“These proposed changes, which also take into account ongoing regional consultations on developing electoral norms and standards for the Sadc, envisage the creation of an independent electoral commission as the principal player in running all our elections,” Mugabe said.
Tsvangirai on Tuesday said in his weekly message that said Zanu PF’s proposals were insufficient. “People are still demanding more measures towards a democratic order,” Tsvangirai said. “The recent appointment of a soldier as chief electoral officer does not inspire anybody. It is a step backwards.”
He said electoral reform was a central part of political and democratic transformation. Electoral reform, in the case of Zimbabwe, was a serious constitutional matter.
“To be effective, electoral reforms needed a solid backing of independent institutions dealing with electoral disputes, handling political excesses and taking care of the whole electoral process,” he said.
The MDC leader said the absence of credible, legally empowered institutions for recourse and reliable monitoring bodies with statutory powers of censure, direction and correction created a shaky process open to contest regardless of the winners.
Tsvangirai said people were worried about the lack of confidence-building measures, especially on the secrecy of the ballot. He said there were no mechanisms and institutional frameworks to guarantee a free and fair election.
“The national grievance is eating into the nation, eroding trust, creating endless suspicions and widening the political gulf and polarisation in our society,” Tsvangirai said.
“Negative perceptions hover around Zanu PF’s sincerity, fuelling feelings of despondency that could lead to serious voter apathy in March. There is a deep lack of trust and fear of electoral fraud, factors that could lead many to conclude that their vote and their voices are worthless and, therefore, inconsequential.”
President Mugabe has set March as the date for next year’s parliamentary election.
Tsvangirai said given the political will to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis, political parties and civil society could put together temporary, transitional institutions to oversee the transformation process.
“The temporary structures can then be revamped after the adoption of a people-driven constitution, thus setting up permanent structures with statutory powers to monitor the observance of democratic practices in our country,” he said.
The MDC has accused Mugabe of rigging the 2002 presidential election and manipulating the 2000 parliamentary vote.
Mugabe this week called for “collective deliberation and judgement” between Zanu PF and the MDC on the electoral reforms so they become “part of the law of our land”.