2013 elections in danger over election observers
HARARE - Sharp differences among the main parties over whether or not to invite western election observers have set GNU partners on a collision course.
The squabbles are set to place more potholes on the road towards elections as the process of making a new constitution, a condition for the next polls, is moving at a snail’s pace.
Zanu (PF) has, once again, decided to play hardball and dismissed the possibility of entertaining western observers, whom it accuses of seeking the removal of President Robert Mugabe and his party from power.
The 2008 elections were held with the participation of only African and Asian observers carefully chosen by Zanu (PF), at Mugabe’s insistence. MDC-T has threatened to boycott the 2013 polls if international observers are not invited.
Nelson Chamisa, MP for Kuwadzana, told a recent rally of party supporters: “No international observers, no elections for MDC. We will not be party to elections which are not observed by the international community. MDC wants to participate in truly free and fair elections, whose outcome will be credible and acceptable by all parties involved.”
In a follow up interview, Chamisa stood by his position, saying: “If Zanu (PF) can invite countries of its choice to observe the election, why can’t MDC as well enjoy the privilege to invite its friends? The election situation resembles that of a wedding. Both wedding couples are free to invite guests of their choice.”
He said the issue of election observers was clearly spelt out in the GPA. But Zanu (PF) is adamant on the issue.
“Western countries will not be invited to observe our elections. As Zanu (PF), we will not allow them anywhere near our national affairs,” party spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, said.
Observers noted that if Zanu (PF) was serious about convincing the international community that the elections would be free and fair, it should invite the sceptics to prove to them that it has nothing to hide. “They can get a clean bill of health from their friends, but why are they afraid of others in the international community – especially those who regularly conduct their own free and fair elections?” asked one political analyst.
Chris Mutsvangwa, considered a hardliner in the party, confirmed the position, saying Zimbabwe was not legally obliged to ensure the presence of foreign observers during elections.
“MDC should take a close look at the constitution, which stipulates that Zimbabwe is obliged to hold elections only under supervision of the international community. As a country we must grow up and run our own affairs without outside assistance or supervision,” Mutsvangwa told The Zimbabwean.
He accused the MDC of pandering to the interests of the West, and poured scorn on the MDC-T election boycott threat.
“MDC is free not to participate in the elections, since our constitution does not force any political party to be part of the plebiscite against its will. The MDC position on observers serves to confirm that some political parties are beholden to some outside countries,” said Mutsvangwa.
Zanu (PF) MP for Tsholotsho, Jonathan Moyo, weighed into the debate, saying: “Chamisa should know that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state. We will invite organisations of our choice to monitor and observe coming elections. Naturally, western countries are not among our preferences.”
Zapu spokesperson, Mark Mbayiwa said election observers were necessary foran acceptable outcome. “We want both regional and international observers … since we want a clean and credible election. Observers can be invited from anywhere,” he said.
Nhlanhla Dube from the MDC led by Welshman Ncube said there was need to speed up the constitution-making process first.
Political analyst John Makumbe agreed. “If elections are conducted under a new constitution, only the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will have authority to invite observers, not political parties. If the elections are conducted under the Lancaster House constitution, government will invite observers and since the GNU is made up of three political parties each party will invite whoever it wishes,” he said.
Even though Mugabe and his party recently urged speed in coming up with a new constitution so as to pave way for elections, their sincerity is in doubt, as there is a strong clique in Zanu (PF) that is opposed to a new supreme law.
Mugabe has flouted the GPA on several occasions and acted unilaterally, leaving the possibility that he can still do the same with the decision on western observers.
The international community and civil society have called on the government to ensure foreign observers are included in the electoral process. In a recent interview with The Zimbabwean, British Ambassador to Harare, Deborah Bonnet, said: “We want to see a free and fair election and the involvement of international observers will give Zimbabwe credit.” - The Zimbabwean