Electoral reforms a priority

LONDON - Once in a while, I use the Internet to search for people I have lost contact with through relocation.

I discovered that one person I was looking for had turned into a pastor, more precisely, a prophet in his new western domicile.

One of his celebrated prophecies was that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would not win the 2013 election.

The “prophecy” comes with a video — Uebert Angel-style — beginning with the day of the “prophecy”, concluding with footage of the announcement of the election result by Zec.

Tsvangirai loses. President Mugabe triumphs. Prophecy fulfilled.

Now, my intention here is not to traduce prophets. Rather, I would like to discuss the old subject of elections and the predicament of the opposition that make such prophecies pretty banal.

Look, if foretelling that Tsvangirai would lose an election passes for a remarkable feat of prophecy, then call me Pastor Conrad.

Of course, Tsvangirai is guaranteed to lose under the present conditions.

Elections in Zimbabwe have become annoyingly predictable it does not take extraordinary or divine prescience to envision the outcomes.

A few weeks ago, an official of one of the MDC splinters seemed to suggest that the main focus of the opposition should be placed on alternatives that they can offer before 2018.

In other words, the opposition should principally invest energies in producing appealing manifestos. 

Electoral manifestos are, of course, axiomatic. It would be odd for a party aspiring for governance not to have well-articulated ideas.

But for the opposition to ever be able to implement those ideas, primary focus should be on reforms.

Manifestos have more relevance in true democracies where channels for debating ideas are accessible to all contenders. Zimbabwe is not a genuine democracy.

The opposition does not lose elections because of failure to advance credible alternatives.

Rather, the opposition loses because of a system that is hell-bent on preventing it from winning. That system involves preclusion from State media, formal and informal violence and electoral manipulation.

It is this system that needs to be reformed.

The opposition can produce gold-standard manifestos. But as long as this system is in place, the opposition will not win an election.

The opposition needs to be mindful of the fact that Zanu PF does not subscribe to multi-partyism and democracy. Free and fair elections present a huge risk.

Zanu PF’s default position is that its legitimacy to govern was predetermined by the struggle for independence — I do not need to rehash the infamous remarks by Augustine Chihuri and Vitalis Zvinavashe here.

Suffice to say that the imputations are that such legitimacy is, in fact, permanent. Elections are, therefore, charades.

That Zanu PF holds elections at all is only a reluctant fulfilment of, to it, an undesirable practice, but a now universally-held tradition.

That fulfilment does indeed come with periodic elections. But Zanu PF then employs its authoritarian tactics, “wins” and has its friends at hand to endorse the elections.

The expectations of the international community, of at least holding elections, are met. Protestations of the hapless opposition against an unfairly endorsed process slowly become ineffectual.

To be seen as an ideas or manifesto-focussed opposition is indeed ennobling. The electorate needs to know what the opposition can offer.

But the opposition does not lose because of poorly conceived alternatives. Manifestos count for nothing in authoritarian settings. In Zimbabwe’s current political circumstances, they just sound like superfluities.

The opposition loses because of a system that does not allow it to win.

Rallies that attract multitudes mean little either until such numbers can translate into votes cast under a fair system that gives a chance to changes of government. 

Electoral reforms should therefore be paramount. Short of this, my prophet-friend will have some more accurate predictions to make.

Comments (6)

tsvangirai iduche, he spent time drinking tea with mugabe and forgot important issues

john - 24 March 2015

mdc should not participate in elections until reforms. otherwise it is just endorsing mugabe;s system of electoral theft.

skhuza - 24 March 2015

Why Zanu Pf wins is that they have an well oiled machinery at grass root level.Their 35 years experience in power entails that their systems have permeated into the fabric of Zimbabwe,s society. MDC seems to be sleeping on duty,their 5 year romance with Zanu Pf did not teach them to learn political survival skills.Instead their their cadres became engrossed with self servicing interests at the expense of the electorate who positioned them in power.T hats the predicament they find themselves in at the moment,a disseminated party,in a crumbling state where the center is no longer able to hold.

Elias Mushangwe - 24 March 2015

free and fair, bob will not win.

nesta - 25 March 2015

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