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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
The Guardian (UK)
August 05, 2013
View this article
on The Guardian (UK) website
winner of the Zimbabwean election on Saturday, but the struggle
over the meaning of the outcome continues. For some it represents
a "patriotic vote" by millions of Zimbabweans who are
returning to the party of liberation. For others it has simply been
an illegitimate election. Beyond the sound and fury, what does it
all means for Zimbabwe?
the election are real, and cannot simply be dismissed as sour grapes.
On polling day many urban voters failed to find their names on the
electoral roll, for reasons which the electoral commission is yet
to adequately explain. But it is not at all certain that these issues
alone cost the Movement for Democratic Change overall victory.
hiding in plain sight is an inconvenient truth: in most of the rural
areas, Zimbabweans voted for Mugabe's Zanu-PF. They did so for different
reasons. For some, memories of the violence
after the 2008 elections meant a "safety" vote for
the party, which could best guarantee or take away their physical
security. Some MDC voters, incensed by having unelected candidates
foisted on them for the elections, went for a bhora musango (protest
vote) in favour of Zanu-PF. More important is the fact that Zanu-PF
started their 2013 electoral preparations as soon as the 2009 government
of national unity was formed between Mugabe's party and the split
MDC, one part led by Morgan Tsvangirai, one led by Arthur Mutambara
and Welshman Ncube. While the two MDCs were slowly learning how
government functions, Zanu-PF quickly moved ahead to prepare a strategy
for an electoral counter-strike. Over the last four years the party
has worked hard to rebuild its base, localise its message and register
probably want to see out his term to provide stability to a party,
which has been wracked by internal tensions. His next cabinet will
probably include a mix of party veterans and young turks. But the
new government will have to deliver on promises of job creation,
service delivery, equitable wealth sharing and investor security.
Zanu-PF will need to implement a truly national, rather than party-political,
vision for development in Zimbabwe.
There will be
transformation too for Tsvangirai's MDC. Its forthcoming dossier
on electoral irregularities is necessary and valuable, but it also
needs to analyse why so many Zimbabweans voted for Zanu-PF. Part
of the problem has been the feeling that the party is at heart a
non-governmental organisation writ large. For its own sake, the
MDC's "change" mantra will have to start from within.
The wider landscape
of opposition politics in Zimbabwe is also changed; Zimbabwe's next
parliament will be the largest in history, with 270 MPs. There will
be a new kind of pluralism; fewer political parties in the national
assembly but an improved gender
representation, with more women in parliament. Gender issues,
health and education and domestic violence will be high on the agenda,
but serious constitutional debate may be compromised. National politics
will, for a time, become the politics of local government.
elections will also have wider repercussions. They allowed the Southern
African Development Community and the African Union to close ranks
and take a common approach based as much on stability as on democracy.
A decisive result was what was wanted; and that was what was delivered.
The results have been a unifying force for Africa's regional and
continental bodies, which are still recovering from the divisiveness
of the Libya intervention in 2010 and the AU commission elections
in 2012. Zimbabwe will also formally rejoin the international community.
But it is also
clear that, in private, there have been real concerns within the
African community about the elections. The long-term result will
be that Zimbabwe, along with developments in Egypt, becomes part
of a revived global debate about the meaning of electoral and popular
democracy; and whether stability or human rights is the ultimate
So what should
the west do? Both the US and UK have expressed deep reservations
about the poll. But Labour MEP Baroness Kinnock, who has publicly
stated her reasoned opposition to EU recognition of a flawed poll,
has pointed out that the EU already has agreements in place obliging
it to follow the regional verdict in Africa's south. The EU is thus
locked into a recognition pathway, which it abandons at its peril.
Despite the justifiable concerns about the process and results,
the simple fact is that the 2013 elections are not going to be re-run.
the EU is a major development partner for Zimbabwe and also funds
various local civil society groups. Continuing with sanctions and
retreating to confrontationalism would not only irreparably damage
EU relations with Africa but could also punish ordinary Zimbabweans,
including the very civil society groups which the EU promotes. In
politics and diplomacy, being inside the tent, however reluctantly,
is more effective than shouting from outside.
the EU will probably give a heavily coveted recognition of the polls
and the new government. It is, however, also likely that EU recognition
of the new reality in Zimbabwe will cause friction with the more
hardline US and Australian positions. Indeed, Zimbabwe could add
to the increasingly spiky EU-US relations in the wake of the Snowden
revelations about US spying on EU embassies.
These are anxious
and exciting times for Zimbabwe and its Diaspora. It is to be hoped
that the world gives Zimbabwe a chance; and that the new government
there gives the people, all of them a chance, too.
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