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Free, but not fair: Why SADC poll endorsement was misinformed
August 30, 2013
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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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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”
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