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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Free, but not fair: Why SADC poll endorsement was misinformed
    Election Resource Centre
    August 30, 2013

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    Following the July 31st harmonised polls, it has become apparently clear that once again, Zimbabwe conducted a disputed poll that has failed to attract acceptability from a significant percentage of its citizens and interested electoral stakeholders. Resultantly, the contestation of the election outcomes remains in full swing on three fronts;

    1. Legal - with the leader of the MDC -T seeking to have the constitutional court nullify the presidential poll and then withdrawing the court application having reportedly failed to access the necessary evidence to contest the poll outcome. . The MDC has also disputed electoral outcomes in 39 national assembly constituencies and accordingly filed petitions to have the poll results nullified.

    2. Diplomatic - with the pro-democracy forces in Zimbabwe seeking SADC support in highlighting the challenges with the July 31st poll through engagement with SADC and other regional bodies.

    3. Political - with supporters of the MDC-T entertaining the idea of engaging in street protests demanding a re-run of the poll

    During the pre-electoral period the Election Resource Centre (ERC) expressed its disquiet that Zimbabwe was clearly ill prepared for the polls and that any attempt to stampede the nation into a premature election would definitely lead to an inconclusive outcome that would be disputed. Events following the July 2013 polls confirm the ERC concerns.

    While almost all observer missions accredited for the July 2013 polls have declared the poll free and peaceful, it is rather disturbing that the same election monitoring groups did not give their assessments on the “fairness” of the electoral process leading to the election. The fact that all that the regional bodies have not fully explored the absence of fairness in this poll but are still prepared to accept it, suggests that standards for elections in Zimbabwe have been lowered, unfortunately not by Zimbabweans but by the region itself.

    This is a tragedy not only for the country but also for the region and the continent considering that seven of the SADC member countries that have endorsed the election are heading for general elections in their respective countries by the end of 2014.

    The Election Resource Centre (ERC) remains worried that the regional body erroneously accepted the poll outcome without making comprehensive assessments of the entire electoral process. Granted, the Zimbabwe July 2013 polls could have happened in an atmosphere of relative calm and peace, but any verdict of elections which selfishly focuses on freeness without due recognition to the fairness relating to such an election can justifiably be dismissed for its lack of comprehensiveness. For elections to be deemed credible they have to meet the basic standards of both inalienable principles of fairness and freeness.

    The ERC therefore contends that SADC and AU assessments of the elections in Zimbabwe remain incomplete and therefore illegitimate in so far as such bodies are yet to give their verdict on the “fairness” of the polls.

    Had SADC remained faithful to the established SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections in making their assessment of the harmonized elections, the regional body could have found it difficult to accept the July 2013 polls as credible, let alone being a reflection of the will of Zimbabweans.

    As outlined in the table below, a measure of the election processes that obtained towards the July 2013 polls against agreed SADC standards for the conduct of democratic elections reveals vivid inadequacies which inevitably undermined the prospects of the polls passing the “fairness” yardstick.

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