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Review of SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections - Opinion and Analysis
MDC boycotts polls until reforms introduced
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
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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