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Actualising the broad electoral alliance

In my last article I argued about the desirability and merits of an electoral alliance between the MDC-T, MDC and other political parties to face off against Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe. In this instalment I would like to focus on the nuts and bolts of such an alliance and how it can be made to come to fruition and the principal actors and factors in the process of developing an electoral alliance .Report by Dumisani Nkomo

Inter-party negotiating teams
Instead of wasting time negotiating with an intransigent and bellicose Zanu PF, the two MDC formations should immediately dispatch emissaries to the negotiating table to sketch the mechanics of an electoral alliance, its scope, magnitude and critical terms of the pact.

The over-arching objective should not be to form one political party, but rather a strategic electoral alliance through an electoral pact involving the two parties and other so-called fringe parties including Zapu, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD), among others.

The negotiations must focus on obtaining political realities based both on previous and current electoral strength of each of the political parties. This will include mapping of the relative geographical strengths of the parties, their competitive advantages, skills, resources, competencies and expertise, as well as how these can be transformed into a cohesive electoral unit.

The mapping should take cognisance of the various constituencies where each political party has a competitive advantage. Constituencies should be defined both geographically and in terms of interest groups. For example, the MDC-T may be strong geographically in five provinces while the MDC may be strong in three provinces. Within these provinces, however, the MDC may particularly be strong in certain MDC-T dominated provinces or vice-versa. It may so happen that Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu, for example, may be relatively stronger in terms of membership and support in Bubi, Insiza or Beitbridge although those provinces may be MDC or MDC-T strongholds .

Candidates mapping
Simba Makoni’s MKD party or project may be weak in all constituencies, but may offer, say, five quality candidates who may just need the support of a broad electoral base. Similarly, some of the smaller parties such as Zapu or Zanu Ndonga may be able to provide better candidates in one or two constituencies or wards.

What constitutes a quality candidate is a debatable subject altogether and there seems to be general consensus in Zimbabwe that the quality of some of our members of parliament and councillors is questionable in one respect or another in terms of either integrity or capacity or both .

However, it must be acknowledged that there are political parties which are stronger than others that have more support and/ or resources and this should not be taken for granted. For example, the fact that the MDC-T commands a relatively large support base nationally is undisputable, but it is also undeniable that Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC while not growing in leaps and bounds, is nevertheless experiencing exponential membership growth in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

A detailed constituency matrix based on a scientific formula for each party’s strength per given constituency or ward should be produced so that the party with the greatest chance of winning in a particular ward or constituency is supported by the other political parties.

This worked quite well in the 1980s, for example, in the Bulwayo City Council where PF Zapu fielded candidates in the western areas and backed independent white candidates in the eastern areas with the objective of deriving benefit from the experience of the former Rhodesian councillors. Zanu PF was soundly trounced in both the western and eastern areas in Bulawayo during the first two elections. This formula can and should work.

The danger of this formula however, is that if improperly implemented, it could promote losers, opportunists, political gatecrashers and grandstanders “who toil not neither do they spin” at the expense of hardworking and long-serving cadres.

New GNU package
The architecture of a new government of national unity (GNU) without Zanu PF should be part of the agreement with a general covenant that cabinet posts should be shared. Critically, there have to be important policy agreements, for example, on how the issue of devolution would be addressed.

The MDC-T — because of empirical evidence of its somewhat greater chances of winning an election — should provide leadership in this respect. But be wary this could be its last chance to win elections against a reformed Zanu PF, an invigorated MDC or a new third force that could benefit from the implosion of the MDC-T if Zanu PF wins the elections. The MDC, on its part, should demand key policy and power concessions as a pre-requisite for participating in the alliance. The possibility of two vice-presidents with one from MDC would become inevitable although undesirable given that Zimbabwe is such a small country.

It is inevitable that an electoral alliance will lead to another GNU. The key difference would be the fact that this GNU would not have the obstinate Zanu PF as a partner.

Role of the church and civil society
Instead of taking sides with either the MDC-T, MDC, Zapu or any other political party, progressive church leaders should play a midwifery role in catalysing the push for an electoral pact.

International community
The international community should insist on backing only a united front to contest in the elections as this is the only politically bankable and economically viable option. Pouring resources into one political basket will just increase conflict within various factions in different parties without contributing anything to real change.

Nkomo is Habakkuk Trust CEO and spokesperson of the Matabeleland Civil Society Forum. He writes in his personal capacity. E-mail: dumisani.nkomo@gmail.com

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