Tuesday, 30 July 2013

ZIMBABWE: The remake 2008 elections?

Tomorrow, 31 July, Zimbabweans will go to the polls to vote in presidential, senate, national assembly and local government elections. The focus will be on the acrimonious battle for the presidency between the incumbent, Robert Mugabe, and the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.

This is a pivotal moment for Zimbabwe, and the election outcome could mean the difference between a return to the turmoil after the 2008 vote or a continuation of the rebuilding process.

The two leaders have very different visions for Zimbabwe. Mugabe is under pressure from a hardcore section of his supporters to bring foreign-owned companies under "indigenous" control. This rhetoric appeals to Zimbabweans, especially young people, who are often forced to operate in the informal economy, which is traditionally unreliable. Tsvangirai, whose reputation has been tarnished by personal scandals and dissatisfaction with his leadership, wants to encourage foreign investment and reintegrate the country into the international community.

Backed by the state apparatus, a Mugabe victory seems inevitable, and many analysts, including myself, predict a comfortable win against Tsvangirai. But also the fact that the opposition is in a bit of disarray. Fractured, bickering and undermined by personal scandals. The Movement for Democratic Change and Tsvangirai are not confident that they can win an election, even if it was free and fair.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is seen by many as having lost momentum and the moral high ground after entering a power-sharing agreement. The MDC stands accused of the sins of incumbency, its leadership seduced by ministerial houses and luxury cars; the party has been forced to discipline some councillors for corruption. It has failed to heal a factional rift that could divide its support. Leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who serves as prime minister in the unity government, has been criticised for becoming too close to Mugabe and for an unseemly run of sex scandals.

Critics say that Zimbabwe is not ready for a fair and transparent election. According to the Research Advocacy Unit report, the electoral registration has been tainted; the names of more than a million people who are either deceased or have emigrated were found on the electoral roll. The electoral commission argues that the report is just another ''western propaganda'' to demonize Robert Mugabe and give a bad name to Zimbabwe. The electoral commission spokesperson says: ''Even in America and the West, there is always a room of errors and improvement when it comes to organize elections. Zimbabwe is not an exception''.

Regardless of what the electoral commission might say, the country is going to struggle to organize polls that comply with international standards. Tomorrow election will be a disorganized affair-and disorganization breeds corruption and electoral fraud, things that had blighted elections in Zimbabwe before.

Avoiding the violence that followed the 2008 election, both parties have agreed to accept the result irrespective of the winner. Yet the language from the campaign suggests the opposite. After military intervention in Egypt, many analysts worry that if Mugabe loses at the polls, the same will happen in Zimbabwe. Some senior military officers loyal to Mugabe have strongly indicated that they would not accept Tsvangirai as president.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Reuters-Robert Mugabe