THE harmonised general election is over. Any continuing chatter or narratives about “fresh elections scaffolded by foreigners”, or a “National Transitional Authority” [NTA] also facilitated by foreigners, is a self-indulgent pipe dream bordering on hot air.
By Prof. Jonathan Moyo
This follows the oath-taking and the assumption of office by the winners of the local election, parliamentary election and presidential election, which together makeup Zimbabwe’s harmonised general election in that they are held concurrently every five years.
CCC won and has taken control of the overwhelming majority of the country’s 34 urban councils; while ZanuPF won and is in charge of the majority of Zimbabwe’s 92 local municipalities to bring the 2023 local authority election to an end; further, ZanuPF won a commanding absolute majority in Parliament to take full control of both the National Assembly and the Senate, with seats whose numbers approximate a two thirds majority in the bicameral Parliament; and lastly ZanuPF also won the presidential election with a clear majority well beyond the 50% plus one vote threshold.
To say the 2023 harmonised general election is over specifically and necessarily means that the question of the legitimacy of the election has been settled beyond reasonable or rational debate. There’s no challenge to the legitimacy of the election in any competent court of law.
What now remains are post-mortems of the harmonised general election, which include but are not limited to final reports of local and international election observers most of which are still pending.
The pending post-mortems are not and cannot be about determining or deciding the legitimacy of the harmonised general election, but about unmasking how the election was actually conducted and, in the words of a recent “Reflection Meeting for Bishops” held by the
@zccinzim, “to dissect what went well, what did not go well and what needs to be done,” in the next election to improve on what did not go well this time round.
The more the election post-mortems, the merrier for the development and maturity of Zimbabwe’s body politic.
What needs to be underlined and understood is that the 2023 harmonised general election is over and its legitimacy has been settled.
The prerequisite for understanding this proposition is the understanding of what an election is.
This is because it is common in Zimbabwean public discourse to encounter bambazonke approaches to electoral politics.
Instead of elections being taken for what they are, dominant Zimbabwean approaches tend to load elections with every imaginable issue or problem under the sun.
Somehow, the common narrative has come to be that an election should be a solution to every and all problems or challenges facing the country.
For many others, an election must be won by their political party or presidential candidate, failure of which the election is invalid and illegitimate by definition.
And for others who view politics through a self-indulgent bifurcation of “good guys” versus “bad guys”, an election is legitimate only if it is won by the “good guys”.
Yet others say an election is about “political reforms”, wherein the “reforms” are not neutral principles and guidelines with general application to enable anyone to win, but are synonymous with the political manifesto or agenda of their favourite political party or presidential candidate.
While these and related sentiments are understandable as expressions of political differences, they’re nevertheless wrong not least because they’re based on subjective views of what an election is.
All hell breaks loose where the definition of an election depends on the mouth of the beholder.
It is important that there be an objective definition of an election, above political opinions and political differences.
In this regard, and based on the best international practices and standards applied to Zimbabwe, an election is a rule and time bound political process which is a legal event in which eligible voters exercise the all-important right to vote for holders of public offices established by the Constitution of Zimbabwe or by any other law of the land; or to be voted for to hold any of those public offices.
The rules and timelines for the three elections that make up Zimbabwe’s harmonised general election are in the Constitution, the Electoral Act and the Electoral Regulations.
As a legal event, Zimbabwe’s harmonised general election starts with the election proclamation and ends with the assumption office by the elected winners upon taking their oath of office. When that is done, the legitimacy of an election is sorted out.
There is a political and legal labyrinth of rule and time bound processes in between an election proclamation and the assumption of office by the elected winners after they take their oath of office.
Those processes must be adopted in advance, and once they are discharged or exhausted one way or the other, within the given rules and timelines, the legitimacy of an election is decided and settled.
The idea or claim that the issue of legitimacy is multifaceted and thus capable of multiple types or forms or meanings of legitimacy that can be as many as they are people raising or asserting them, is wrong and inimical to the essence and purpose of an election as a rule and time bound political process which is a legal event that comes and goes within a fixed timeline.
As such, the legitimacy of an election is only and necessarily contested and decided in the courts of law, strictly within the rule and time bound legal event.
After an election, the spotlight necessary shifts to the decisions and actions of the elected public officials, which are about fulfilling electoral pledges or policy choices within the confines of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the laws of the land; on the back of Zimbabwe’s founding values and principles enshrined in section 3 of the Constitution.
In this regard, that the decisions and actions of the elected public officials can and in fact always raise policy, political, economic, social, religious, cultural, traditional or other questions that affect the lives and livelihoods of the people, which questions may delegitimatise elected public officials; that process is not about elections but about “good governance” and matters related thereto.
From the standpoint of electoral legitimacy, although they’re of course related and while they impact one another, the holy grail of international best electoral practices or standards is that the legitimacy of an election should not be conflated or confused with the legitimacy of governance – which comes after the election – in terms of whether it is good or bad or whatever!