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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Special Election Transition Barometer
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    July 29, 2013

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    Zimbabwe's 31st July harmonized elections: Out of the concrete can a flower emerge?


    With general elections due on 31 July 2013, our sixth edition of the Zimbabwe Transition Barometer (Issue 6) is a special election publication. Is the holding of general elections in Zimbabwe on 31 July 2013, a mere ritual meant to prolong the stay of President Mugabe and Zanu-PF in the saddle of power? Is it true that elections generally, and these elections in particular, will change nothing?

    The myth that elections in Zimbabwe will change nothing and that President Mugabe and his cohorts will not accept any result other than their victory is what we focus on in this special edition. We pursue, in this report, a bold claim that the forthcoming elections are more than just a participatory ritual meant to legitimise incumbent, President Mugabe’s ‘continued stay’ at number 1 Chancellor Avenue.

    We acknowledge that the challenges that have faced the forthcoming election from day one have had the effect of pouring concrete on the possibilities of a peaceful, free, fair and credible election. We have thus posed to our selves the question: Out of the concrete, can a flower emerge?

    Our short answer is yes. We retain hope that in spite of challenges, the flower, even the rose, of the people’s will, may still grow from the concrete. We are not saying democracy is fully functioning. We acknowledge that Zimbabwe’s chain of democratic choice is not as solid as it should be. The five links - information, inclusion, insulation, integrity and irreversibility as explained in our paper ‘ Countering Electoral Manipulation: Strengthening Zimbabwe’s Chain of Democratic Choice’, have failed to hold together like a solid chain. But what we can say is that the politics is different. It is not business as usual.

    Our optimism is not just based on theoretical propositions and wishful thinking, but also on practical observations. We argue that, ‘the point of multi-party elections is that even if they are held in non-democratic settings, they have the potential to lead to real political competition and meaningful participation - that is, to lead to democracy’ (Lindberg 2013:239). In addition, it is our contention that ‘democratic performance improves over time and with experience of multi-party electoral politics. Thus, though…systems favour incumbents, the passage of time and the greater experience it affords is likely to serve to promote [opposition] party institutionalisation and improved [opposition] party performance’ (see Van de Walle 2013:236). However, beyond our theoretical postulation, political developments in the past month also buttress our argument as we detail later.

    Hence, we argue that there is a possibility for power alternation in the next election from Zanu-PF’s President Robert Mugabe to the Movement for Democratic Change’s President Morgan Tsvangirai, who has emerged as the main national contender in the run up to the election. The opposition in general (the 2 MDC formations) is tipped to get more ample representation in parliament and in councils despite the skewed electoral environment.

    Unlike in the past, where general elections were convened regularly but as a mere ritual to retain the incumbent, the situation in Zimbabwe today is different. The wave of democratisation that has swept through Zimbabwe in the past four years has put political change firmly on the electoral menu of Zimbabwe’s politics.

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