Government should take cue from Zambia, Senegal

Periodic, free and fair elections are a key component of democracy and provide an opportunity for citizens to exercise their right to self determination. Governments have a responsibility of ensuring that a conducive environment is created which fosters the holding of democratic elections. However, in Zimbabwe, some elements within the inclusive government continue calling for early polls before critical reforms, which have a bearing on the outcome of the elections are carried out. Such elements are retrogressive and should take cue from the Senegalese and Zambian experiences where incumbent governments allowed the will of the people to prevail and accepted defeat.

In 2008 ZANU PF clearly lost the elections but waged a violent resistance against the outcome leaving more than 150 people dead and thousands displaced. Thereafter, an inclusive government was shoved down the throats of Zimbabweans with limited engagement with the majority. Despite having lost the election, President Robert Mugabe, aided by the service chiefs overrode the will of the people by clinging to power.   The inclusive government, including President Mugabe and ZANU PF should take cue from Zambia and Senegal by creating an environment which promotes credible elections and respecting the eventual outcomes of such elections.

It is commendable that Senegal's former president, Abdoulaye Wade, despite having employed various tactics aimed at reinforcing his stay in power, including fruitless attempts to amend the country's constitution to lower the percentage of votes required for the first round victory from 50% to 25%, was able to concede defeat and allow winner, Macky Sall to take over the reins. The election, described by many as peaceful, brought hope to Africa in the wake of coups and dictatorships. The peaceful elections and smooth transfer of power in Senegal place the West African country on the map of democracy especially so at a time when its neighbour Mali has been cast into turmoil following a coup launched by mutinous soldiers.

Perhaps what is notable in the Zambian and Senegalese polls was the presence of not only independent domestic observers but also those from the international community.  Zimbabweans dream of a peaceful election whose outcome will be undisputed, what should be prioritised is the creation of a conducive environment with genuine reforms that will even the playing field to allow constitutional order and the respect of the ballot and consequently, a smooth democratic transition.

A lot has to be done in Zimbabwe whose history with regards to democracy is generally poor. With repressive media laws, partisan electoral bodies and security forces, draconian legislation and a constitution engineered to profit ZANU PF, Zimbabwe may never know the true values of democracy. It is only after democratic reforms, that legitimate and transparent elections can be held in Zimbabwe.

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