Editor’s Memo:Elections: Tsvangirai needs reality check

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai naively told the world last weekend that he had agreed with President Robert Mugabe to hold elections next year and that whoever lost should not challenge the outcome.

The decision to go for the polls, he quoted Mugabe as saying, was informed by the prevailing peace in the country.
While the election trajectory is the only solution to our political crisis, Tsvangirai’s assumption that the current relative peace would obtain in an election period is daft, if not downright foolish given that very few democratic reforms have been undertaken to guarantee credible elections.
Before Tsvangirai made his pronouncement he should have asked himself a simple question: Will conditions have changed in 2011 from those that prevailed in 2008 and prevented a credible election?
Mr Prime Minister, fundamental obstacles to credible elections remain and there is nothing in the attitude of Zanu PF to suggest that it will behave differently this time around.
The top brass of the security arm of the state have been accused of having played a fundamental role in the previous election and all the indications are that
they will do the same in 2011. Even under this inclusive government they have shown scant respect for Tsvangirai.
This week we tried with no success to get service chiefs to state their positions on the outcome of the proposed election next year given that before the March and June 2008 polls they vowed never to salute Tsvangirai in the event of him winning the election.
Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Army commander Philip Sibanda declined to state their positions. Chihuri said he was not a politician while Sibanda flatly said he didn’t trust us.
Political commentator and lawyer Alex Magaisa told me this week that for all his shortcomings, Mugabe is not stupid — he has seen the writing on the wall and knows he cannot win a free and fair election. Also on age and health grounds, he probably realises that he needs to step down, but that choice is no longer in his hands.
“It is vital to recall that Tsvangirai and the MDC did not lose the elections in 2008 — they won, but in Tsvangirai’s case by an insufficient margin to give him the presidency,” Magaisa said. “But let’s not forget that the result of that election came five weeks after the polls and God knows what happened in that period.”
The suspicion has always been that the delay was used to ensure that he failed to go past the necessary threshold. Then of course you have the practical issues of voter registration and the voters’ roll — which has been a mess for years and needs to be cleansed to get rid of the ghost voters.
In short, a credible election requires a fundamental change in conditions, including serious and unbiased monitoring and enforcement of electoral laws. So far we have not seen evidence of those changes. Indeed the constitutional reform exercise itself is still to be completed.
Sadc needs to get more involved in ensuring that those conditions are in place and in particular to ensure that the fate of the country is not in the hands of the security generals.
An election under conditions similar to those prevailing at the 2008 elections would be a sheer waste of time, resources and most likely human lives. Tsvangirai must wake up to this reality and stop pretending all is well.

 

Constantine Chimakure

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