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Zimbabwe: Election scenarios
May 06, 2013
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As the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) staggers to an end, continued violations
of the agreement, reform deficits, limited institutional credibility
and the rejection of a UN election needs assessment mission underscore
the continued absence of conditions for peaceful and credible elections,
despite the new constitution adopted in March 2013. President Robert
Mugabe has been forced to step back from a June vote, but his party
still pushes for an expedited process with little time to implement
outstanding reforms and new constitutional provisions. The pervasive
fear of violence and actual intimidation contradicts rhetorical
commitments to peace. A reasonably free vote is still possible,
but so too are deferred or disputed polls, or even a military intervention.
The international community seems ready to back the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), which must work with GPA partners
to define and enforce “red lines” for a credible vote.
The Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is likely to resist further
reforms. SADC places particular emphasis on democracy supporting
institutions, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) faces
significant challenges. Limited government funding threatens its
capacity building, public outreach and ability to ensure the integrity
of the voters’ roll. The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human
Rights Commission (ZHRC) resigned, citing the body’s lack
of independence and government support, and was replaced by another
commissioner with close ties to ZANU-PF. The GPA’s Joint Monitoring
and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) plays an important role in
responding to political conflict, but has insufficient support and
addresses symptoms, not causes, of violence and intimidation.
security officials may seek to influence the polls. Some have demanded
greater political representation; they played a pivotal role in
violence that secured Mugabe’s victory, for which none
were held accountable. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has demonstrated
some professionalism, but its leaders openly support ZANU-PF and
frequently harass Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations
and civil society, which the MDC-Tsvangirai has been powerless to
prevent. The GPA provides no basis for credible investigations of
the police (or other security elements), which refuse to answer
to the co-ministers of home affairs or JOMIC and expose parliament
as largely toothless. Political parties face internal challenges.
Within ZANU-PF, “hardliner” and “reformist”
camps are fighting over who will succeed 89-year-old Mugabe. MDC-T
is struggling with a reported drop in popularity, infighting and
limited capacity to mobilise its supporters.
The international community
assesses Zimbabwe’s progress positively, demonstrating its
support for SADC’s facilitation. The constitutional referendum
enabled the European Union (EU) to lift restrictive measures against
most of the individuals and entities (excluding Mugabe, his wife
Grace, a small group of security officials and the Zimbabwe Mining
Development Corporation). Zimbabwe and the UK subsequently held
their first bilateral talks in over a decade, and a “Friends
of Zimbabwe” meeting that offered economic support and the
lifting of sanctions against two Zimbabwean banks by the U.S. shows
Western commitment to supporting Zimbabwe’s reform.
is “containment” even more than reforms to maintain
stability. This objective remains vague, but the organisation must
consolidate its promotion of reforms in compliance with its election
guidelines. Reforms require monitoring, but JOMIC’s capacity
for this is limited and ZANU-PF’s resistance to extending
its mandate to focus on elections has frustrated SADC. The regional
bloc should establish an office in Harare that complements JOMIC
but allows it to independently liaise with the government.
If the impasse
on election reforms persists, the vote may be rescheduled. Political
leaders recognise that to proceed when the risk of large-scale violence
is high and when parties and SADC disagree over what constitutes
an acceptable threshold for credible elections would be dangerous.
Faced with divisions that threaten their performance in the polls,
ZANU-PF and MDC-T may back postponement.
accompanied by firm SADC pressure, presents opportunities to promote
reforms, on condition that strict timelines are defined, monitoring
is enhanced significantly, political parties understand the risks
of failure, and institutional weaknesses and the potential for interference
by the security sector are reversed. Otherwise, the “winner-take-all”
attitude means the election is likely to be hotly disputed. Some
in ZANU-PF feel threatened by the erosion of economic opportunities
that would come with losing power, while others fear prosecution
for human rights violations. For the MDC-T, an electoral defeat
would signify a loss of influence. For ZANU-PF, disputing the results
could mean increased influence by bringing the country to a standstill.
election requires that all parties and their supporters accept results.
There are indications that Mugabe and Tsvangirai have agreed to
do so and accommodate whoever loses. However, such a deal does not
automatically translate into acceptance by their parties. Tsvangirai
has agreed to be the GPA principals’ point man on election
preparations, which could make it more difficult for him or his
party to cry foul or withdraw because of irregularities. The waters
are already muddied by the MDC-T’s acquiescence in the referendum,
which proceeded according to the interests of the GPA signatories,
disregarding the concerns of other political groups and of civil
A military takeover
is unlikely, not least because of uncertainty about the political
allegiance of the rank and file, probable regional censure and international
isolation. However, allegations of the army’s bias and complicity
in human rights violations raise concerns it may seek to influence
the election outcome. It may also present itself as a stabilising
force if inter- and intra-party relations deteriorate further.
2013 is a decisive
year. Elections in a context of acute divisions are unlikely to
provide stability. There is growing sense that the best way forward
is further power sharing, though this is only helpful if objectives
are established and widely accepted. To note that Zimbabwe is less
violent now than in 2008 means little before the campaign –
it is the competition for power that generates violence. That the
elections are likely to be tense and see some violence and intimidation
is clear; what is not yet clear is the nature of the violence, its
extent and the response it will generate.
To define and build consensus
on the election roadmap
To the Southern Africa
Development Community (SADC):
1. Facilitate further
discussions among the GPA parties to address the lack of consensus
and clarity on reforms following the constitutional referendum.
To enhance oversight
on the political process toward elections
2. Convene a dedicated
heads of state summit on Zimbabwe that emphasises roadmap compliance
with the SADC “Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic
Elections” and that:
a) establishes a liaison
office in Harare to monitor and evaluate electoral preparations
and facilitate prompt response when necessary;
b) defines “red
lines”, strict benchmarks and clear measures for non-compliance
by the GPA parties to the agreed roadmap; and
c) establishes clear
monitoring and observation roles in the election.
To the Global Political
3. Take a more hands-on
role to expedite and ensure implementation of agreements and GPA
commitments, as well as the resolution of outstanding disagreements,
a) conduct the outstanding
annual review of GPA implementation as stipulated in Article 23
relating to the periodic review mechanism;
b) ensure SADC officials
deployed to JOMIC during the constitutional referendum remain in
place until after the elections; and
c) resolve disagreements
preventing the deployment of additional JOMIC provincial monitors.
4. Direct JOMIC to independently
investigate allegations regarding state security forces’ partisanship
and political interference.
5. Extend JOMIC’s
mandate to cover the election period (including before and after
the vote) and make provision for holding political party leadership
accountable to the GPA and the election roadmap.
To the Joint Monitoring
and Implementation Committee:
6. Operationalise additional
teams recruited in 2012 to complement existing teams working with
the Operation Committee.
7. Increase outreach,
cooperation and collaboration with civil society and faith-based
To preserve and consolidate
To GPA principals:
8. Encourage political
tolerance and coexistence across party lines through frequent joint
press conferences, calling for non-violence, inter-party dialogue
and responding to particular concerns and incidents.
To strengthen the electoral
process and institutions
To GPA principals:
9. Allow the UN needs
assessment mission to return to Zimbabwe to conduct an assessment
that can help address the lack of confidence in electoral processes
10. Resource fully and
operationalise the ZHRC so it can discharge its mandate before,
during and after elections.
11. Appoint staff to
ZEC with a view to addressing concerns about alleged political bias
set out in the draft election roadmap.
To address the politicisation
of the security services and state institutions
12. Utilise its security
structures and processes to facilitate high-level engagement between
senior military, police and intelligence officials from the region
and Zimbabwe to persuade the security sector not to interfere in
the political process.
13. Require an electoral
code of conduct for police, military and intelligence services that
can be endorsed by SADC heads of state.
To GPA principals:
14. Hold regular National
Security Council meetings as the elections draw near to mitigate
disagreement and develop consensus.
15. Ensure security officials
making partisan public statements are censured or sanctioned.
To build a sustainable
democratic transition in Zimbabwe
16. Ensure the country
does not rush into elections before there is clarity and consensus
on, and practical implementation of, necessary reforms.
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