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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Analysis: The African Union stays in character for Zim election
Allison, The Daily Maverick
August 06, 2013
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never seen an election that is perfect,” said Olusegun Obasanjo
on Friday. Coming from a former Nigerian president, that’s
not hard to believe. Obasanjo was explaining how the African Union
observer mission to Zimbabwe could conclude that there was nothing
substantively wrong with the result. “The point has always
been and will always be how much have the infractions, imperfections,
affected the result of the election being a reflection of the will
of the people?”
none of the serious infractions and imperfections identified by
the opposition, independent media, civil society groups and local
election observers were enough for the AU to dismiss, or even question,
the result of the election which was, according
to Obasanjo and his team, peaceful, credible, and “fairly
fair”, whatever that means.
to see why the AU would be so keen to embrace these decidedly flawed
results, to give them the all-important continental seal of security.
The last time Robert Mugabe lost an election the concequences were
disastrous, not just for Zimbabwe, but for the region and for the
continent as a whole. Zimbabwe’s economic collapse and post-election
violence was incredibly destabilizing for Africa, and if there’s
one thing that the AU prizes above all else yes, far above democracy
is the wrong word; it’s more a kind of inertia in which maintaining
the status quo trumps the will of the people. If you’re in
power the AU is generally happier to see you stay there, regardless
of your governance record, approach to human rights or the quality
of the elections that put you there.
In this, it
has an excellent track record. One of the AU’s few firm foreign
policies is that no coup, no matter the circumstances, should be
condoned. It’s a principle that is pretty firmly applied.
The 2009 coup in Madagascar was followed by Madagascar’s suspension
from the AU. The same goes for the 2012 coup in Mali and the 2013
coup in the Central African Republic. The principle was even enforced
on last month’s was-it-a-coup-was-it-not-it-a-coup in Egypt,
and this couldn’t have been easy Egypt used to be one of the
AU’s biggest funders and many diplomats in Addis Ababa would
have been happy to see the fall of Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist
government. Still, Egypt got a firm rap on the knuckles and a suspension.
And when it
comes to elections, incumbency is a major advantage. Zimbabwe is
not the only instance of an obviously rigged vote that was quick
to receive AU blessing. In the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011,
President Joseph Kabila got himself re-elected despite blatantly
fiddling the results, yet the AU did not hesitate to extend its
seal of approval. The message here was loud and clear: in Africa,
the bar for free and fair elections is so low that all a corrupt
leader needs to get himself “re-elected” with AU blessing
is a few strongly-worded denials coupled with the implicit threat
of regional chaos.
All this goes
to show that for the AU, stability trumps democracy every time.
And it is absolutely no coincidence that this policy works in favour
of one-party states, presidents-for-life and autocratic regimes.
For all its lofty pretensions, too many AU member states still fall
into these categories.
of what actually happens, we can expect more “credible”
general elections in Ethiopia and Guinea-Bissau later this year;
and in Algeria, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South
Africa next year. This is good news for the incumbent leaders of
all these countries, should they choose to abuse the system; and
the ones that don’t should be wary that the AU’s low
standards don’t tar them all with the same brush. What’s
to distinguish a genuinely fair election from one that’s not?
Is there a difference, in the AU’s eyes, between a representative
government and a dictatorship?
As for Africa’s
long-suffering opposition movements, the Zimbabwean election is
yet another indication that they won’t get any help from the
continental body. At minimum, the AU’s electoral standards
should be about ensuring a level playing field where a viable opposition
can exist. This ideal seems a long way off, and it means, in effect,
that opposition movements cannot rely on any kind of external assistance.
If they’re to fight off autocracy, and corruption, and bad
governance, they’ll have to do it by themselves.
sad state of affairs, and a damning indictment of an organization
that has yet to deliver on its promises. But what else did we expect?
It might seem bitterly ironic, but the AU is nothing if not a representative
body and if we want to reform the AU, we’re going to first
have to reform the member states of which it is comprised.
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