THE International Crisis Group (ICG), a global think tank, says an election result that outrightly excludes President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF or the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T increases the chances of the losing party disputing the poll results.
Report by Mernat Mafirakurewa
In its report published early this week titled Zimbabwe Election Scenarios, the group said if Zanu PF loses, the implications of its removal from power, fear of prosecution for alleged past human rights violations and loss of economic interests and opportunities could trigger a dispute.
It said the MDC-T, which considers its inclusion in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) as a stepping stone to winning an election and consolidating its power, was also likely to dispute the election results, if it loses, due to the fear of returning to opposition politics.
The global think-tank noted that there were several scenarios that could play out after forthcoming elections.
Below are excerpts of the report on the various election scenarios:
A deferred election
Although Sadc demanded an election be held within 12 months of June 2012, several factors, including the interminable delays around agreement and implementation of reforms, confirmed that any insistence on this schedule would be unwise.
At its March 2013 summit, the Sadc troika endorsed South African President Jacob Zuma’s call for the implementation of reforms “so that adequate preparations are made for a level playing field for the forthcoming elections”.
Much depends, however, on whether delaying the process would realistically enable a resolution of the challenges identified.
A continuing impasse between Zanu PF and the MDC factions, as reflected by the election roadmap gridlock, could justify deferring elections beyond October 2013. The MDC-T has stated that it will not participate in an election that does not meet its reform demands.
However, Tsvangirai has agreed to be the GPA principals’ pointman on election preparations, and it would thus be difficult to cry foul or withdraw unless clear reform benchmarks have been violated.
If parties cannot agree on the post-referendum reforms, Sadc risks supporting an election with a discredited process and institutional deficits. Security sector influence in politics could also make it difficult to secure free and fair conditions for elections by October 2013.
Sadc will be guided by its facilitators’ recommendations, but deferment is only realistic if there is consensus on the need for reform to guarantee a credible election.
Rescheduling the elections beyond October 2013 will require either an extension of the GPA or a reconfigured power-sharing arrangement.
Any extension should be specifically tailored to transitional objectives, including reconciling Zimbabwe’s laws with the new constitution and implementing key reforms. Such an agreement should specify minimum conditions for key reforms —“red lines” — critical for democratic elections, strict timelines, effective monitoring and assessment capabilities, clear consequences and measures for failure to comply, unambiguous executive power-sharing mechanisms and the specific roles for the guarantors in the entire process.
A disputed election
A disputed election would be most likely to arise from the political parties’ reaction to a range of unexpected or unfavourable circumstances, blamed on real or perceived irregularities.
A “winner-take-all” election
An election that excludes the other side increases the chances of the losing party disputing the results. If Zanu PF loses, the implications of its removal from power, fear of prosecution for alleged past human rights violations and loss of economic interests and opportunities could trigger a dispute.
In April 2008, the party disputed vote counts in 21 constituencies and blamed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for procedural problems that led to the arrest of some election officials. This demonstrates the party’s readiness to turn against electoral institutions when it deems it necessary to do so, a prospect that cannot be ruled out should the next election results suggest a total loss of power.
A dispute provoked by Zanu PF could include mass mobilisation of party youths, war veterans and the general membership.
The MDC-T considers its inclusion in the GPA as a stepping stone to winning an election and consolidating its power. If the party loses the next vote, and Zanu PF pushes for a “winner-take-all” strategy, the prospect of a return to the opposition benches may prompt the MDC-T to dispute results.
However, the effectiveness of such a protest will be contingent on the quality of the evidence and may be limited if Zanu PF continues to control the security institutions, the judiciary and bureaucracy.
The new constitution and the powerful presidency
Zanu PF regards the presidency as sacrosanct given its vested executive powers. It will be more determined this time to avoid the type of loss it suffered in the first round of the 2008 vote, which it blamed on its own complacency and internal divisions.
The president’s prerogative powers vested in the previous constitution were used to override the independence and functions of other institutions.
Although the MDC parties have the majority of elected members in Parliament, special provisions allowed the President to directly or indirectly appoint 33 senators.
This significantly diluted elected legislators’ power. Even with the adoption of the new constitution, the President retains significant powers, and this will sustain the high-stakes competition, regardless of who controls Parliament.