HomeCommentUS elections: Zim must draw lessons

US elections: Zim must draw lessons

A NAIL-BITING election race which kept political enthusiasts worldwide hooked onto television screens and social media platforms culminated in President Barack Obama’s emphatic victory.

Zimbabwe Independetn Editorial

American elections usually capture the attention of the world largely because the country has the largest economy on the globe and is the only superpower, which means it influences global events.

In Zimbabwe many people closely followed the United States elections.

Whatever people might think, the US elections provide so many useful lessons for countries like Zimbabwe. While the US foreign policy and interference around the world might be outrageous, the country provides good role models, not just in economic and technological spheres, but also in some aspects of democracy, including elections.

The way Americans run their elections is salutary. Even if the electoral system has so many shortcomings, the country is still among the best when it comes to running elections.

The way the campaigns are organised and run, engagements on key issues at various levels, including presidential debates, the decorum with which it is done, and how results flow in and are declared can only provide lessons to countries like Zimbabwe where polls are synonymous with hate speech, political violence, intimidation, vote-buying, ballot-rigging, electoral fraud and corruption of democracy.

While Americans — even if a lot of their things are choreographed — strive to perfect their internal democracy partly by running elections transparently and efficiently, in other parts of the world, including Zimbabwe, authorities do everything to steal the results.

No doubt every system has its own merits and flaws, but the way elections are run in the US is generally exemplary.
Candidates and their parties are clear ideologically and on issues. Their manifestos are subjected to scrutiny and interrogated through an open media system where everybody is free to be heard.

That’s what we need in Zimbabwe. While our media structure and landscape is different from that of the US, we need the public media — ZBC and Zimpapers — to stop being propaganda mouthpieces of Zanu PF and provide a platform for all parties and candidates to download their manifestos to the electorate.

In Zimbabwe now is that the electoral process is rigged, both by design and circumstances. By calculation, elections are rigged through a flawed voters’ roll, manipulation of constituency boundaries, in other words gerrymandering, partisan electoral officials, vote-buying and withholding of results.

The denial of all parties and candidates equal opportunities in the public media to campaign is also part of rigging.

The tolerance for diverse views in the US permeates the entire campaign process, with rival supporters for instance attending the same rally in party regalia without risking life and limb.

The adage: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, certainly rings true in the US, at least during elections.

The campaign process is facilitated by freedom of movement, association, assembly and expression; no places are deemed no-go areas or the preserve of a single party. Certainly, no police clearance is required to hold rallies or are repressive laws applied to stop others from campaigning.

While there was clear acrimony as the rivals tussled for the ticket to the White House, Romney was quick to concede defeat hours after the polls and congratulated Obama, who reciprocated saying he would soon meet his rival to map the way forward.

This is what Zimbabwe, ahead of elections next year, must learn from the US. We need peaceful and credible elections whose outcome is not disputed by anyone.

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