Zimbabwe’s Inclusive Government shaken by electoral games – by Takura Zhangazha
The political parties in Zimbabwe’s inclusive government have now begun playing out their electoral end games eleven months prior to the expiry of its constitutional term of office in June 2013. There have been varying public statements from the three parties in government about the actual date of elections and which ever way one looks at it, election season is now firmly upon us again. Whereas Zanu Pf has been insisting on elections being held this year, that can now be considered a moot point given the hints by some of its newspaper columnists that it is well nigh impossible to have both a constitutional referendum and an election in terms of a new constitution in the next eleven months.
The MDCs, on the other hand, have been arguing for the full implementation of the SADC facilitated election road map. They however must most certainly know that again in the limited time period available, they will not get everything that they are requesting short of a constitutional amendment that extends the lifespan of this current government. And for this, they would require an almost impossible to get two thirds majority in Parliament. At best the MDCs will probably have to revert back (amidst Zanu Pf resistance) to the Electoral Amendment Bill (amongst other potential or existent laws) to try and integrate the provisions of the SADC facilitated road map into domestic law.
Regardless of the outcome of all of these contestations, the issue of elections is no longer as distant as it was two years ago. In fact, it has become evidently more urgent for political parties within and without of the inclusive government and as such, the Zimbabwean public must brace themselves for highly politicized debates and an increasingly polarized political environment. In this, there will be the revival of the old rivalries of 2008 and mudslinging between leaders in the inclusive government about the performance of rivals in the last four years.
The images of friendly leadership handshakes will decrease and we will all be asked to demonstrate loyalty to one party over the other without really questioning issues of the policy substance that has been provided by the inclusive government in the period that it has existed. It is because of such a potential development that one can reasonably argue that we are now entering a political period in which we should no longer expect much by way of non-partisan or ‘common ground’ policy from the inclusive government.
Each party will angle what it would call its own ‘exclusive’ policies in the inclusive government as evidence of its ability to govern and therefore its electability over the others. Zanu Pf will insist that it’s indigenisation programme has been a success while MDC will argue that were it not for its control of broader economic policies, hyper-inflation would still be knocking on every citizens door. Blame games for the undemocratic and expensive constitutional reform process under COPAC will reach a particular partisan crescendo because it is the one thing that all parties in the inclusive government cannot skirt collective responsibility on.
The actual reality for the everyday citizens will however not be as frenetic or as emotive as that of those that will be seeking their votes. They will view and participate in the electoral processes either out of cultural and political coercion or even self aggrandizement than belief in any particular principles. This being a direct result of the fact that the inclusive government has had little to offer by way of inspiring its own people to believe in anything else but survival of the ‘fittest’ and the cliched ‘kiya-kiya’ political economy. Add to this, the clear distinction between the profligate lifestyles of those in government and the majority populace has already led to a cynical electorate which may seek more to gain materially in the immediate than to challenge political leaders on the country’s future. So there will be the positioning of money, jobs and drought relief handouts in direct return for votes from a public that knows that without taking advantage of the elections, these material benefits would be few and far between.
So as Zimbabwe enters this protracted election season, it is of importance that civil society organisations take non-partisan stock of the inclusive government based on democratic values and principles. Where this is not done, it is the country that will be the worse off in the present and in the future. It is also imperative that the inclusive government be brought to account not merely on the basis of the personalities that comprise it, but on its performance when measured by social democratic value and principles.
Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com
What is Electoral Legitimacy?
Legitimacy is a term much bruited about in discussions of electoral law and policy. Courts and commentators repeatedly profess their concern with electoral legitimacy. Occasionally questions are voiced about the legitimacy of the entire electoral process such as substantive due process as to the conduct of an election.
Although the concept of electoral legitimacy features prominently in constitutional legal debates, it rarely receives analysis. Those who appeal to electoral legitimacy frequently fail to explain what they mean or the criteria that they employ. Confusion often results â€” not only among readers and listeners but also, I believe, in the minds of those who write and speak about electoral legitimacy.
I have two ambitions. The first is to clarify what we characteristically mean when we talk about electoral legitimacy. In pursuit of this goal I shall draw a number of distinctions. Perhaps most important, I shall argue that the term electoral legitimacy invites appeal to three distinct kinds of criteria that in turn support these three concepts of electoral legitimacy: legal, sociological, and moral. When electoral legitimacy functions as a legal concept, legitimacy and illegitimacy are gauged by legal norms. As measured by sociological criteria, a claim of electoral authority is legitimate insofar as it is accepted as deserving of respect or obedience. A final set of criteria is moral. Pursuant to a moral concept, electoral legitimacy inheres in the moral justification, if any, for claims of authority asserted in the name of the law as an exemplar of normative conduct.
Distinguishing among legal, sociological, and moral legitimacy often yields an immediate and practical payoff. It comes in increased understanding of electoral debates, enhanced precision of thought, and the potential for clearer expression. When we can identify a particular electoral legitimacy claim as legal, sociological, or moral, its meaning will typically become plain. We will also be better situated to consider the standards for establishing benchmarks in an assessment of an electoral process.
My second aim is to advance substantive understanding of the electoral process. When we examine electoral legitimacy with improved conceptual tools â€” with a sharpened awareness of what we mean by electoral legitimacy and why we care about it â€” striking conclusions emerge.
First, the legal legitimacy of an electoral process depends much more on its present sociological acceptance (and thus its sociological legitimacy) than upon the legality of its formal ratification. Other fundamental elements of the electoral process, including practices of interpretation, also owe their legitimacy to current sociological acceptance. By contrast, most ordinary electoral protocols derive their legitimacy from legal/convention norms established by or under a code of conduct.
Second, although an electoral process deserves to be recognized as morally legitimate, the nature and significance of its moral legitimacy are easily misunderstood. The electoral process is not perfect, nor has it ever possessed the unanimous consent of the governed. As a result, the electoral process qualifies as legitimate only under what I shall describe as â€œminimalâ€ (rather than â€œidealâ€) theories of moral legitimacy. The electoral processâ€™s moral legitimacy, like that of elections of most nations, arises from the facts that it exists, that it is accepted as law, that it is reasonably (rather than completely) just, and that agreement to a better electoral process would be difficult if not impossible to achieve.
Finally, as should be evident already, the electoral process does not rest on a single rock of electoral legitimacy, as many appear to assume, but on sometimes shifting sands. Realistic discourse about electoral legitimacy must reckon with the snarled interconnections among the electoral legal process, its diverse sociological foundations, and the felt imperatives of practical exigency and moral right.
Does Civil Resistance Work?—The Zimbabwean Imbroglio
My contention is that nonviolent campaigns have a participation advantage over violent insurgencies, which is a crucial factor in determining outcomes. The moral, the physical commitment and social media informational barriers to participation are much lower for nonviolent resistance than for violent insurgency. Nonviolent resistance movements create much more durable and internally peaceful democracies than transitions provoked by violent insurgencies. Nonviolent resistance campaigns are more effective in getting results and, once they have succeeded, more likely to establish democratic regimes with a lower probability of a relapse into civil war. However, I am of the opinion that nonviolent campaigns fail to achieve their objectives when they are unable to overcome the challenge of participation, when they fail to recruit a robust, diverse and broad based membership that can erode the power base of the opposition adversary and maintain resilience in the face of repression. However, a peaceful successful post war society requires basic fundamental civil institutions by which to establish, create and enforce the â€˜rule of lawâ€™ and to provide basic essential goods and services to the people.