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Electoral pact absolutely crucial

LAST year I suggested that an electoral pact was imperative and inevitable. Since then there has been heated debate over the issue.

Opinion by Dumisani Nkomo

If the two MDC formations (MDC-T under Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC under Welshman Ncube) do not agree on such an arrangement, chances of them losing to Zanu PF are quite high.

This arrangement would help in constructing a stable new economic and political architecture in the post-Zanu PF era as the former ruling party (Zanu PF) is unable and or unwilling to capture international support and investor confidence.

The two MDCs should swallow their pride and look at the greater good for most Zimbabweans and this I believe would be an electoral pact which would enable them to field one candidate for the presidential elections and concur on candidates for parliamentary and local government polls.

Political egos
The biggest impediment to an electoral pact between the two MDCs is not ideological as the parties are two dominant and separate social democratic entities.

In the current contestation, it is more about egos than anything else since both formations want to prove that they have political muscle and support. The MDC–T would like to prove once and for all that it is the most dominant party by vanquishing the Ncube-led MDC and Zanu PF.

The MDC is keen to prove it has gained ground and is a kingmaker in Zimbabwean politics.

In their ambitions the two parties are correct because political parties exist to contest for power and not necessarily to share power. In normal cases political parties can also exist to defend and advance specific geo-political, socio-cultural, economic or environmental interests.

However, in the context of Zimbabwe such a political architecture is a luxury we cannot afford and the political superstructure in Zimbabwe provides no room for such luxuries either.

If the two parties continue to dilly dally Zanu PF and its leader President Robert Mugabe will win the next elections, confining the two formations to history as Zimbabwean politics in five years’ time may be quite different from now with the possible emergence of strong alternative new political factors, formations and voices, and the possibility of a reformed Zanu PF. In essence this is the last chance for the MDC-T and Tsvangirai to win elections and this could also be the last time for Ncube to maintain his relevance to Zimbabwean politics.

The Zanu PF factor
In the same manner that the resurgence of Ncube’s MDC is undoubted, the resurgence of Zanu PF is a political reality for the following reasons:

Apathy is likely to be a factor in the next elections as the electorate is likely to have little motivation for voting. Voter turnout is likely to dwindle as it has for the past three elections. The protest vote on the other hand is unpredictable and may shrink. The protest vote has also been affected by a massive exodus to the diaspora.

Second, while being quite suicidal for the economy the community share ownership scheme and indigenisation programmes may get Zanu PF more votes, especially in rural Mashonaland, Manicaland, Masvingo and a few pockets in Matabeleland.

This, coupled with dents to the brand of Tsvangirai last year as a result of well-publicised scandals surrounding his love life and policy inconsistencies, could erode the MDC-T’s support .This does not however automatically translate into support for Ncube in all cases, but rather erosion of confidence in the whole voting and political process thus contributing to apathy. This makes an electoral pact absolutely necessary as both MDC formations could end up being the biggest losers.

The Ncube-led MDC has made a remarkable turnaround and is indeed a force to reckon with but will not win the presidential or parliamentary elections. If Zimbabweans are still motivated primarily by the desire to remove Mugabe and Zanu PF, Ncube’s party would then become an unfortunate victim of broader protest politics regardless of the quality of its policies and candidates.

Ncube will definitely make a mark on the southern part of the country but in the broader scheme of political arithmetic this may present an advantage to Mugabe and Zanu PF who will benefit from a split presidential vote and splits in votes for parliamentary seats coupled with apathy.

For the Ndebeles in Matabeleland it is unacceptable for a Ndebele to be only seen as a vice-president and not contest for the post of president, but in the current scheme of things Ncube can still mount a formidable challenge in 2018 instead of going the “all-or-nothing” route. The MDC -T would also be presented with a win-win situation as they need to win the presidential election and secure a majority in parliament.

There is a lot of bitterness and acrimony between the two parties as a result of the original split in 2006 and the failed 2008 agreement amongst other things. When a husband and wife fight all they remember are each other’s worst attributes and characteristics. In essence the two MDCs have more in common than they realise and they both have more to gain from an electoral pact. We need the intelligence and substance of Welshman Ncube as well as the charisma and brand of Morgan Tsvangirai.

I am confident that the two leaders and their parties will show the nation that they are true national leaders with the people at heart. What they are doing now is like the old story of little children who fight over what they would do with money were they to pick it up! The MDCs must grow up.

Nkomo is the chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust, activist and spokesperson of the Matabeleland Civil Society Forum. He writes in his personal capacity. Email: Dumisani.nkomo@gmail.com or follow his blog dumisanionkomo.blogspot.com.

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