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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Countering electoral manipulation: Strengthening Zimbabwe's chain of democratic choice
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    June 13, 2013

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    This paper is a sequel to our previous edition, Pre-Electoral Detectors: ZANU PF’s attempt to reclaim political hegemony. In the previous report we argued that the Zimbabwean state exhibits tenets of a competitive electoral authoritarian regime. In terms of real empirics it was our submission that the ZANU PF ruling elite would prefer to shift from naked violence to more subtle ways of electoral manipulation. In this paper, we proffer context-specific interventions that can ensure Zimbabwe gets a free and fair election. This is premised on building a robust case for consensus on the five links that can build Zimbabwe’s chain of democratic choice. These are information, inclusion, insulation, integrity and irreversibility as we explain in the paper. The consensus should be at a local, regional and international level emphasizing that a break in one link does not mean a less democratic election but an undemocratic one.


    In year 2000, it appeared near impossible that pro-democracy forces would be able to convince the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that the crisis in Zimbabwe was not just one of a post-colonial state, rooted in the neos of imperialism and colonialism. It took a lot of intellectually laced advocacy to move the key political players within SADC to appreciate that beyond ZANU PF‘s rhetoric was a very specific agenda to oppress the people. It was the issue of naked violence and repression that eventually made SADC to take a more pro-active role. Now the challenge that confronts Zimbabwe at this juncture is that ZANU PF is conscious that overt, systematic and naked violence will delegitimise its ‘victory’ in the next harmonized election. As we argued in our earlier report, political parties are not static. ZANU PF is attempting to abandon and/or minimize naked violence in order to reclaim its political legitimacy. What would it take to convince SADC again that the Zimbabwe crisis is not just about state sponsored violence but other modes of manipulating elections, economic governance, societal cohesion and institutional collapse?

    However, given the scope of this paper we focus on a broad definition of electoral manipulation which goes beyond the electoral environment, the electoral process and balloting to include a deeper contextual analysis of the political system, prevailing political culture and the nature of the regime itself. This is in acknowledgement of the fact that recent scholarly work has sought to provide a nuanced distinction between fraud, malpractice (including criminal malpractice) and systemic manipulation. Hence in this report the term ‘manipulation’ is what will be broadly used in order to avoid confusion on the likely distinctions.

    Our belief is that there is no substitute for rigorous evidence based advocacy on the democratization of Zimbabwe, both at home and in the region. The premise of it should be peaceful elections alone are not synonymous with democracy or with a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis. What is needed is to build a robust case on the need for a chain of democratic choice at least in relation to the upcoming watershed election. Regular and, moreso, peaceful elections are insufficient to fulfill the promise of a democratic choice in Zimbabwe. We follow the genealogy of Robert Dahl’s wisdom to outline five primacy conditions that must exist for a free and fair election to happen in Zimbabwe. As Schedler (2006:40) argues, ‘together these conditions form a metaphorical chain which, like a real chain, holds together only so long as each of its links remains whole and unbroken’.

    The report is organized as follows: the first section provides an introduction which also captures our contextual definitions of electoral fraud and manipulation; the second section is a presentation of our conceptual framework premised on the chain of democratic choices; the third section provides a brief context of democracy and elections in Zimbabwe; the fourth section juxtaposes our conceptual framework with the electoral cycle and provides an insight based on hindsight on the likely rigging points; the fifth section is a discussion of strategies to detect, deter and mitigate fraud and manipulation in the coming elections and; the final section is a conclusion which reconciles our conceptual framework with the possible deterrent and mitigatory interventions as a way of concluding the report.

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