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After Another Flawed Election?
Lovemore Madhuku, Chairperson, National Constitutional Assembly
Extracted from International Bar Association, Zimbabwe Election Focus
March 25, 2005

"The rules of the game must be overhauled first before dreaming of "victory" under a set of rules specifically designed to make victory by an opponent impossible."

At the centre of the Zimbabwe crisis is the absence of demo- cratic and accountable governance. This is manifested by, among other things, the systematic assault, by the Robert Mugabe Government, on all fundamental freedoms that are taken for granted in many parts of the world.

This election is being conducted under a constitutional framework whose raison d'être is to preserve the status quo. Until Zimbabweans overhaul the constitutional framework and introduce a new constitution anchored on democratic institutions, it is impossible to attain the level of 'free and fair elections'. An election that is neither free nor fair cannot produce a fair result.

Election promises ludicrous
This election will not change the government, whatever the result. The president remains the head of government and is entitled to constitute the government until 2008, even if his ruling party loses the parliamentary election. As the election is not about the next government, this makes election promises by the opposition ludicrous. A prospective MP who promises jobs, better management of the economy and so on, when he knows that he will not be in the government whatever the result of the election, may be seen by some voters as taking them for a ride. This may contribute to apathy and lack of enthusiasm among voters.

Pro-democracy forces must unify
In the circumstances, what is the way forward? In the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) we have consistently asserted the following position: Zimbabweans must, as a starting point out of this crisis, advocate for and fight to establish a democratic dispensation within which to do genuine politics. This requires unity of all pro-democracy forces around a common agenda of establishing a new constitution and thereafter elections under that new constitution. This approach requires the suspension of the ambitions of individuals and political parties to acquire political power and subjecting all our energies towards one priority: forcing the Mugabe regime to embrace genuine democratic reform. This pressure is not easy to achieve, nor will it be a one-day affair. It may take a long time to build and means serious risks to the life and freedom of everyone involved. But if clear parameters are set and participants made aware of the risks and the length of time involved, success is guaranteed.

Flawed elections change nothing
This approach contrasts with that of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC believes in capturing power from the Mugabe regime and then using that power to push for democratic reforms. This approach has seen the MDC participating in the 2000 and

2002 elections under hostile conditions. Notwithstanding the hostile electoral environment, the mood in 2000 and 2002 was one of hope and enthusiasm. In both elections, it was felt that the overwhelming anger of the people was sufficient to overcome the constitutional and legal obstacles placed in the way of a free and fair election. In my view, the results of those elections proved beyond any shadow of doubt that this approach does not work in Zimbabwe.

Rules must be changed
The rules of the game must be overhauled first before dreaming of 'victory' under a set of rules specifically designed to make victory by an opponent impossible. Many who disagree with this approach are pure power-seekers. This brings me to the March 2005 parliamentary election. The MDC agrees that there has been no significant change to the rules as they stood in 2000 and

2002 but still believes it may 'win' the elections. It will not win the election for one reason: the constitutional and electoral framework under which the election is being conducted will not allow victory for the opposition. A better approach would have been for Zimbabweans to have refused to legitimise the Mugabe regime's rule by not participating in a futile election and concentrating all their energies on demonstrating the illegitimacy of the regime and mobilising Zimbabweans to put pressure for genuine democratic reforms as a pre-condition to an election.

Mass mobilisation and protest
Be that as it may, the election is taking place on 31 March 2005 and Zimbabweans who wish to vote must do so. What is important is to map out what to do after the elections. To me, the way forward is simple: the Mugabe regime will remain in power after 31 March. It will continue with the path of bad governance, human rights abuses and lack of respect for the rule of law. For the third time, Zimbabweans would have realised the futility of an electoral process outside a genuine democratic order. After 31 March, all pro-democracy forces must unite and face the Mugabe regime with far-reaching demands. The postelection struggle must be based on mass mobilisation and mass protests, regardless of the number of times we may fail. Zimbabweans must continue with the fight for a new democracy founded on a new constitution and not allow themselves to be distracted by another future election. The role of SADC and the rest of the international community is to understand this position and support it.

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