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  • Review of SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections - Opinion and Analysis

  • ZIMBABWE: MDC boycotts polls until reforms introduced
    IRIN News
    August 26, 2004

    HARARE - The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has suspended its participation in all elections until the Zimbabwean government adheres to Southern African Development Community (SADC) guidelines on free and fair polls.

    MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said on Wednesday: "In light of the continued absence of any tangible sign that the government is prepared to enforce the SADC protocol on elections in its broadest sense, the MDC national executive has decided to suspend participation in all forms of elections in Zimbabwe."

    Nyathi said the MDC would boycott polls until acceptable levels of transparency and fairness in the electoral process were guaranteed.

    "For this to happen, the government needs to combine a comprehensive reform of Zimbabwe's electoral framework with significant political reforms, in particular, the ending of political violence and the repeal of represessive statutes, such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that place gratuitous curbs on the independent media and citizens' democratic rights pertaining to freedom of speech, assembly and association," said Nyathi.

    The MDC move comes almost a month before a by-election in Seke rural constituency, which belonged to the MDC until the recent death of the legislator. If the ruling ZANU-PF contests the election unchallenged, it would be three seats short of a two-thirds parliamentary majority, allowing it to amend the constitution without consulting the opposition. Several by-elections in local municipalities are also scheduled for September.

    "Although the Zimbabwe government is a signatory to the new SADC protocol on elections, the [MDC] executive does not believe that the government acted in good faith and, consequently, harbours serious doubts as to the government's commitment to enforcing the electoral standards contained in the protocol," Themba Nyathi explained.

    The SADC protocol guarantees equal access to the state media and freedom of association, but Zimbabwean police have routinely barred MDC rallies from taking place, while the few that are permitted have been disrupted by ZANU-PF supporters in the presence of the police.

    Nyathi said although the opposition would boycott elections organised outside the SADC protocol, they would keep their options open on participating in next year's crucial parliamentary elections.

    A ZANU-PF politburo member, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said the move by the MDC was a clear sign that they wanted to avoid next year's election.

    "If they talk about access to the state media, it is a known fact that MDC supporters always beat up journalists from the state media when they attend their rallies," he told IRIN. "Police also have to regulate their rallies because MDC leaders are always inciting their supporters to commit acts of violence."

    He added: "They should participate in elections because it is their democratic right to vote. If they do not participate in elections they would be the losers, because they are not the only opposition party in Zimbabwe, and an election can go on with or without the MDC."

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