Failing "Elections 101" in Zimbabwe

By Nontando Hadebe 5-12-2008

This weekend Zimbabwe's opposition party announced that it would take part in the next round of presidential "elections." Violence, harassment, and intimidation of unarmed citizens continue as part of the government's preparation for the "elections." In my understanding, there are three basic rules that qualify a process to be described as a legitimate election (election 101!):

  1. Elections are part of a democratic package that includes freedom, democracy, and peace. Without this package or context, elections cannot be expected to achieve their intended function -- namely, to elect a party or candidate of choice.
  2. Elections presuppose political maturity, which understands that to participate in an election a party could:

a. Win or
b. lose but
c. cannot be both (a) and (b)

  1. Acceptance of results is part of the election process. In the event of losing a party should not resort to political tantrums and attack the winner. This is a serious violation of the first election principle above and therefore constitutes a violation of human rights.

In the case of Zimbabwe, none of the above apply. Despite these serious constraints the opposition and the people are determined to use this window of opportunity to fight for democracy. The international media has played a significant role in ensuring that Zimbabwe is on the "big screen," visible for all to see. This effort needs to be supported by active participation by the international community in the "election" process as it happens. This support is critical. Violence cannot be allowed to triumph as a political tool that overrides the election process. This is our prayer and plea for support.

Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.

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