AS the Global Political Agreement (GPA) staggers to an end, continued violations of the agreement, reform deficits, limited institutional credibility and the rejection of a UN election needs assessment mission underscore the continued absence of conditions for peaceful and credible elections, despite the new Constitution adopted in March 2013.
International Crisis Group
President Robert Mugabe has been forced to step back from a June vote, but his party still pushes for an expedited process with little time to implement outstanding reforms and new constitutional provisions. The pervasive fear of violence and actual intimidation contradicts rhetorical commitments to peace.
A reasonably free vote is still possible, but so too are deferred or disputed polls, or even a military intervention. The international community seems ready to back Sadc, which must work with GPA partners to define and enforce “red lines” for a credible vote.
Zanu PF is likely to resist further reforms. Sadc places particular emphasis on democracy, supporting institutions, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) faces significant challenges.
Limited government funding threatens its capacity building, public outreach and ability to ensure the integrity of the voters’ roll. The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) resigned, citing the body’s lack of independence and government support, and was replaced by another commissioner with close ties to Zanu PF.
The GPA’s Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) plays an important role in responding to political conflict, but has insufficient support and addresses symptoms, not causes, of violence and intimidation.
Certain pro-Zanu PF security officials may seek to influence the polls. Some have demanded greater political representation; they played a pivotal role in the 2008 violence that secured Mugabe’s victory, for which none were held accountable. A military takeover is unlikely, not least because of uncertainty about the political allegiance of the rank and file, probable regional censure and international isolation.
However, allegations of the army’s bias and complicity in human rights violations raise concerns it may seek to influence the election outcome. It may also present itself as a stabilising force if inter- and intra-party relations deteriorate further. 2013 is a decisive year.
Elections in a context of acute divisions are unlikely to provide stability.