With three days to go before the harmonised elections, a new report says there is a real chance that President Robert Mugabe may finally be dislodged from power by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, despite spanners being put along his way.
BY PATRICE MAKOVA
A special election edition of the Zimbabwe Transition Barometer boldly claims that the July 31 election was not merely a ritual meant to prolong the stay of Zanu PF in the saddle of power, but offers a possibility of power alteration between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
It says although democracy was not fully functioning in the country with the systems favouring the incumbent, the MDC-T in general is tipped to get more ample representation in Parliament and in councils despite the skewed electoral environment.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC)-produced barometer argues politics in the country was now different and no longer business as usual, especially for Zanu PF which used to wield absolute power.
It says the wave of democratisation that has swept through Zimbabwe in the past four years following the formation of the GNU has brought about some measure of accountability and political change to the electoral politics of Zimbabwe.
The barometer says in the run-up to the election, the MDC-T and Tsvangirai have been able to mobilise thousands of prospective voters and promote mass participation.
“Citizens seem to feel more efficacious when they feel strong parties represent their views,” reads the report.
It says outside political parties, counter-prevailing institutions of power have been redefined with civil society, independent media, political parties, Sadc and the international community serving as a check on state power.
The barometer says pressure applied to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has resulted in some of its members changing their way of doing things.
“Defending the interests of Zanu PF is no longer necessarily the default option,” says the report.
The barometer focuses on four areas which it says are material to both the outcome and nature of the elections. These are: Amendments to the Electoral Act and democratisation; African Union and Sadc Engagement; Absence of “overt” violence and ZEC “On or Off-guard for the elections”.
It says the AU and Sadc, being the “guarantors” of the GPA, were central to the elections. Their role is expected to ensure that the country holds a credible election able to lead towards a democratic transition from the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the past political conflict epitomised by the 2008 disputed polls.
Previously, the AU has been criticised for being seen to be inactive in shepherding the Zimbabwe transition process.
The report said the involvement and interest shown by AU and Sadc will likely translate into them taking responsibility for the outcome of the election by ensuring a smooth political transition and resolution of any arising election related disputes.
“Given the tension that characterises the political environment towards the elections, the contentions and counter accusations so far expressed in the election related matters, and the low public confidence in electoral processes; a disputed election is likely,” warns the barometer.
But it says the presence of AU and Sadc as guarantors of the elapsing GPA would likely lead to a timely address of disputes; restraint on flagrant defiance of democratic election tenets; and raising the confidence levels of the voters to freely express their vote.
“Should the election outcome lead to the need for a power transfer, the role of the AU and Sadc will also be crucial,” the report says.
But the barometer says the negative forces weighing down on ZEC’s professionalism will likely escalate towards Wednesday’s elections.
It says ZEC will likely split into two camps – the proponents for a credible electoral process and those eager to push through their partisan interests in the institution.
However, the barometer says in terms of the implementation of the law, some presiding officers might behave in a discriminatory manner in some areas that have a history of intimidation.
“Due to the fact that some voters are not privy to the amendment of section 57, they might, as per tradition, hold up their ballot papers for the presiding officer to see the mark,” says the CiZC report.
“It is also possible that political parties might fail to field election agents in all the polling stations due to logistical challenges or as a result of intimidation by competitors. Such areas include rural areas in Mashonaland provinces, rural Midlands and parts of Masvingo such as Mwenezi and Chiredzi north.”