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IBA Calls for Real Commitment to Democracy
International Bar Association (IBA)
Extracted from International Bar Association, Zimbabwe Election Focus
March 25, 2005

On 31 March, 2005, Zimbabwe will, once again, have parliamentary elections.

Robert G Mugabe who, maintaining a 'democratic façade', has run Zimbabwe in an authoritarian manner for the last 25 years, is trying to obtain a new mandate. But his electorate record - full of past instances of fraud and manipulation - has been very poor so far.

Mugabe seems to have perfected the art of conducting elections without allowing any real competition. When necessary, he has even turned to open repression of the opposition.

Therefore, the international community is closely monitoring the ongoing electoral process in Zimbabwe. It is deeply concerned because, up to now, Mugabe has effectively prevented the transfer of power through elections even to those who appeared to have won the recent 2002 elections.

When elections are manipulated, like they were in Zimbabwe, results do not reflect the will of the people. We should remember that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds that free and fair elections are of the essence when it states that 'the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government' and that this 'shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections'.

It is time for Mugabe to behave in a democratic manner. Even his own region is now closely following the way to the forthcoming elections. A new democratic spirit that seems to float over Africa, as the events in Togo have just proved, should not be betrayed.

- Ambassador Emilio Cárdenas, Co-Chair of the IBA Human Rights Institute

'It is accepted in all democracies today that free and fair elections are so crucial that the global community and internationally recognised NGOs are entitled and expected to monitor elections. For a democracy to work, the starting point is the free and fair election of the representatives of all the people.

Having said that, it's the beginning. For democracies to work, the institutions that underpin democracy have to be respected. Democratic elections, as crucial as they are, are not sufficient to ensure democracy. It is important, in respect of the exercise and protection of fundamental human rights in a democracy, that there should be complete confidence in the manner in which leaders in all three branches of government have been chosen, namely in an open and free way.

The protection of other human rights comes after the election and depends on the institutions being allowed to work efficiently and transparently. Without free and fair elections, you will not have respect for other human rights but, because it is a point worth emphasising, I reiterate that free and fair elections alone do not ensure democracy.

- Justice Richard Goldstone, Co-Chair of the IBA Human Rights Institute

The proposed election in Zimbabwe calls for world concern, as the result is already known - the return of a dictatorial system.

Free and Fair election connotes: freedom of the press, level playing field and absence of coercion, intimidation or fear of the consequences of voting against a sitting Dictator.

President Mugabe should open the environment for a genuinely free and fair election to take place. The days are gone when only one man in a Nation Knows it all and African Nations should not be run as Personal Estates.

The World Leaders owe Africa a duty to stop playing the proverbial Ostrich on the continued abuse of electoral processes in Zimbabwe. The time has come for the world to refuse recognition of leaders whose power is not clearly derived from the will of the people.

- Segun Onakoya, Chair, African Regional Forum, IIBA

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