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Parliamentary Monitor: Issue 10
Parliamentary Monitoring Trust (Zimbabwe)
October 24, 2011

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Democracy/Economy which comes first?

Are we prepared to see the 2012 elections gobbling a cent for every 10 cents that the central government gets as revenue? Put differently, does it make democratic sense to have an election which takes about 2.4% of the country’s gross domestic product? These are questions that Zimbabweans started grappling with last week after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said they had submitted a US$220 million budget to Treasury for both the referendum and general elections expected next year. (Zimbabwe’s projected GDP for this year is US$8.978 billion while revenue flows are expected to be at US$2.744 billion.) ZEC deputy chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe told the media that the commission was broke and was literally incapacitated, until a time they were allocated funds. She added that US$104 million would cover the referendum while US$115 million would fund the general elections. This has opened debate on what should come first, economic stability or democracy. The PM team, using the social media as a platform to share and debate issues realized that one of the Parliamentary Monitor Group members on facebook had asked the same question and the responses showed the varied responses and the paradoxical situation that the country faced itself in. One respondent, Goodwel Gwavava, said: “We cannot simply say there is no price greater than democracy without putting into consideration the economic environment under which elections take place."

What Makombe (who had asked the question) is saying is: “is it wise to use US$220million to run an election in Zimbabwe now… considering the current economic problems.” The other group members also chipped in, for example, Daison Ngirazi said: “Elections will help us have a culture of good governance which will ensure accountability of resources assuming you get the right people into office! So I think we have resources to have an election if the GNU places its priorities right e.g sell all discovery 4s, account for Marange and other such mines...” The responses by group members bring to the fore the need for transparency, aggregation of competing demands and needs for resources and developing a culture of good governance that is supported by a mechanism that punishes or rewards those who have been doing well. The elections are inevitable, after 2013, that is the constitutionally acceptable life of the current Parliament and this means that while one can wish them away as they will leave big holes in our already tattered budget, they will come. If the elections were to be postponed, on the basis of inability to raise funds, then 2013 will definitely be an elections year. Then the other alternative will be to cut the budget. The pain of cutting the budget may be too much as the final product, the elections themselves could be compromised. The other alternative is to extent the begging bowl and have the traditional donors coming in. This is likely to be hotly disputed. The final alternative could be to squeeze the budget and extract a few dollars and cents to finance the running of the elections. Whichever path the central government takes, the elections are so important that it would be improper to compromise them. We have already have a fair share of violence and allegations of rigging that we should not go on to further taint them.

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