New report warns of potential Zim violence ahead of ‘unfair’ poll

July 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm Leave a comment

By Alex Bell

A new report on the state of Zimbabwe’s preparedness for the elections in two days time, has warned that the country could face extensive violence and a return to a ‘protracted political crisis’.

These warnings have been made by the International Crisis Group, in a report on the elections titled: ‘Mugabe’s last stand’. The Group says the country is ‘inadequately prepared’ for the polls on Wednesday and the conditions for a free and fair poll do not exist.

“Confidence in the process and institutions is low. The voters roll is a shambles, security forces unreformed and the media grossly imbalanced. The electoral commission is under-funded and lacked time to prepare. Concerns about rigging are pervasive, strongly disputed results highly likely,” the report states.

The Group explains that little has changed since the chaotic 2008 election period, “including an atmosphere of intolerance and restricted access, state media bias and lack of confidence in institutions.” The report also says that while there are some “significant differences” between 2008 and now, not enough has changed.

“There are some significant differences: more voter access to information, especially through the internet, social media, mobile phones and satellite news. ZANU PF no longer has an increasingly frustrated region’s unquestioning loyalty. SADC publicly acknowledges need for reforms, but expectations it would or could ensure a genuine vote are severely compromised, raising questions about its post-31 July role,” the report states.

The Group also says that the regional SADC bloc and the African Union now face “severe credibility tests,” urging the two bodies to avoid a narrow technical approach” to Zimbabwe’s elections.

“If the vote is deeply flawed, they should declare it illegitimate and press for a re-run after several months of careful preparation or, if that is not possible, facilitate negotiation of a compromise acceptable to the major parties; and strong diplomacy will be needed to forestall extensive violence if the presidential contest moves to a run-off in conditions like 2008, or, if President Robert Mugabe loses at any stage, to ensure a smooth transition,” the Group says.

The report also lays out some possible outcomes of the poll on Wednesday, none of which spell out positive change for Zimbabweans. These outcomes are:

– ZANU PF wins a deeply flawed election that is accepted by most in the interest of avoiding violence and further economic chaos;
– ZANU PF wins a deeply flawed election that is accepted by SADC/AU observers, but not by MDC formations and civil society, leading to further political impasse and economic deterioration;
– ZANU PF “wins” a clearly rigged election; the courts give no remedy, leading to large protests, repression, political isolation and economic deterioration; or
– MDC-T wins at least in the first round, provoking a backlash by hardliners/securocrats to prevent a transfer of power.

“Other scenarios are also possible, but whatever ultimately transpires, it will become more precarious if the presidential contest again goes to a second round. Most projected outcomes suggest a strongly disputed result. In that event, resolution mechanisms may not provide a legal remedy, and African facilitation may be required to either rerun elections after several months of careful preparation or, if that is not possible, secure a political solution involving a negotiated reconfiguration of power sharing,” the report states.

It adds: “If SADC and the AU take the low road with respect to a vote on 31 July that is clearly deeply flawed – regardless of which political camp appears to ‘win’, though realistically the ZANU PF side is more likely to be able to employ and benefit from gross manipulation – their ability to maintain regional stability as well as to promote democratization and good governance will be undermined. Instead, they should be prepared to declare the results illegitimate and press for the elections to be run again after a minimum of three months.”

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