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A long-term analysis of the 2005 parliamentary election and its implications for democratic processes in Zimbabwe
Institute for Justice and Reconciliation
July 2005

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In 2000, for the first time since it came to power in 1980, the ruling zanu pf faced a serious challenge from an opposition political party. The populace rejected the draft constitution that the government had drawn up and in june, the newly formed movement for democratic change won 47% of the popular vote in the parliamentary election.

In march of this year, zimbabweans once again went to the polls in a general parliamentary election. Zanu pf called for a non-violent election, reducing incidences of overt political violence from previously high levels, in a struggle for electoral legitimacy. The mdc, faced with the question of whether to participate or not, participated to maintain their legitimacy. However, the pre-electoral environment - not least the compromised delimitation exercise, the delayed announcement of the election date, the disputed nature of the voter’s roll, ruling party dominance within the ‘independent’ electoral institutions, limited and cost-prohibitive access to the media for opposition parties, and an almost comprehensive disregard for the recently signed sadc protocols – prejudiced the extent to which the election result can be described as a legitimate expression of the will of the zimbabwean people.

The ruling party’s two-thirds majority in parliament, coupled with the mdc’s acquiescence in the face of the disputed result, have opened up a space within which zanu pf is pursuing its authoritarian rule. Most recently, this has taken shape in operation murambatsvina (‘clean up the filth’). The campaign has involved forced removals, internal displacement, and latterly, the articulation of ideals of urban renewal. The lesson being taught, to regional players and zimbabweans alike, is that, far from being a failed state, the zanu pf state is stronger and more in control than it has been since 2000.

The institute has for the past three years worked extensively in zimbabwe in cooperation with analysts, activists, church leaders, women’s organizations and umbrella groups. We have an excellent working relationship the group of zimbabwean academics and activists who have produced this report, and maintain links with significant players across the political spectrum. Our objective is to build democracy in a society where civil and political liberties are progressively undermined by government, while those democratic gains that have been made over the past few years are being negated. This suggests the need to constantly rethink and develop new strategies in the struggle for democracy.

In the run-up to the election, the institute entered into a relationship with a consortium of ngos; namely idasa, the south african council of churches, the south african catholic bishop’s conference, the centre for policy studies and sangoco. The consortium intended to monitor and observe the conduct of the 2005 parliamentary election and, while it did not receive official accreditation from the zimbabwean government, developed a strategy for unaccredited observation. The outcomes of the consortium’s work included a statement declaring that free and fair elections were not possible in the repressive climate pertaining in march 2005 and a substantial report submitted by idasa on behalf of the consortium.

The report that follows includes some of the material in the consortium reports. Beyond this, it includes analyses of certain key areas in relation to the political situation in zimbabwe, namely the media, the role of the military and the gendered implications of the election process. The institute has also commissioned an in-depth study (available at the end of the month) of the politicisation of the zimbabwean economy and the implications of the economic meltdown for business, government and the people of zimbabwe.

We acknowledge with appreciation the funding the institute has received from the swiss agency for development and cooperation over several years that enables us to continue to work in the zimbabwean situation. It is hoped that by taking a longer-term perspective on the 2005 election and its implications, this report could be a first-step towards enabling analysts and zimbabwean stakeholders to identify areas for constructive engagement in the future.

Charles villa-vicencio
Executive director
Institute for justice and reconciliation

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