Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 00:50 a.m. DST, 21 August 2013
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Despite optimistic reviews and marks of approval from neighboring countries and multilateral institutions, democratic elections in modern day Africa still leave a lot left to be desired in several categories. A prime example of this can be seen with the current post-election situation in Zimbabwe.
President Robert Mugabe, who is 89 years old and has been the head of state since 1987, just received another electoral “win” after the country’s elections that took place on July 31st.
International watchdogs held their breath as the voting process and results took place as the last Zimbabwean national election in 2008 ended in violence as opponent Morgan Tsvangirai’s supporters were attacked. This forced Tsvangirai to back out of the race to avoid further damage to his supporters, but it didn’t keep him from running again in this election.
Although the results announced Mugabe as the winner with the vast majority of the votes, post-election details are emerging that there may have been election rigging completed by his ZANU political party.
For example, there are some constituencies listed that have more recorded voters than actual residents which resulted in over 800,000 duplicated names on voter lists. This is a gross human rights violation as it rips citizens of their right to vote and have a voice in their government.
Having the nation’s governing political party violate its duty to be transparent and accountable will no doubt leave a national feeling of resentment and anger with the governing coalition that will persist until there are truly fair elections.
However, Mugabe and his ZANU party are not the only ones to blame, and it is suggested that some foreign investors may also be behind the election scheme. Foreign organizations that have certain obligations and interests like European and Chinese investors, diamond mining firms, and neighboring countries may have also played a part behind the scenes in making sure that Mugabe could stay in power and continue to pursue their goals.
Although Zimbabwe is a staunch reminder of where elections and political systems in Africa need to improve upon, there are some glimmers of hopes in other countries on the continent. In the Mali elections that concluded in the past few days, the ex-Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse conceded to the Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Keita after the runoff. Originally, Cisse had some complaints about potential fraud in the electoral process, but he soon after made the decision to peacefully concede and even congratulate Keita on his victory. This peaceful example of transition is impressive as it required no violence or force in order to decide on a winner.
Because the elections were settled in a peaceful, smooth, and fair process, there has been a general national sentiment of the citizens being happy with how the election went and that the country is making steps towards a more stable and prosperous state of affairs. A European Union observe even said that from a democratic point of view, the election was a success. This brings hope to the country that Mali can create a new trajectory for itself after months of instability where rebels in the North seized parts of the country and eventually forced French troops to intervene. After several tumultuous and devastating months, the elections in Mali have thus far served as a beacon of hope and building block for a strong future.
In the coming years, it will be vital for African countries to institute and follow through with truly free and fair elections so that its citizens will be content and able to trust the government. Elections can prove to be a turning point in a country’s history, and the trajectory of Zimbabwe and Mali from their current elections onward could prove to be a telling comparison on how elections and political transition are vital to a healthy country.
- FFZE: Zim Prepares for Mugabe’s Inauguration Party (zimbabweelection.com)
- US sanctions on Zimbabwe to stay (bbc.co.uk)
- Here’s Exactly How Robert Mugabe Stole the Zimbabwe Election (thezimbabwean.co)
- SADC Regional Bloc Toasts Mugabe and Calls for an End to Sanctions (zimbabweelection.com)
- Mali: Ban Congratulates Malians, and President-Elect Keita, On Successful Polls (allafrica.com/)