Constitutional expert and Kent University Senior Law lecturer who served as an Advisor to late MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, Dr Alex Magaisa made a stunning admission that elections are never perfect even in the most advanced democracies in the world.
Magaisa who in 2013 described a poll won by the late Robert Mugabe condemning his rival Morgan Tsvangirai to the political dustbin as “Charade” writes in his latest Big Saturday Read that every election has its flaws Although there are minimum benchmarks which should be met for the election outcome to be acceptable to contestants.
“Elections are never perfect even in the most democratic countries, but the expectation is that they must satisfy at least the minimum and universally-acclaimed standards of freedom and fairness. They must produce a democratically legitimate outcome.
“To achieve that, they must be substantially fair so that even the losing contestants can be reassured that they were treated fairly and they can be confident that if they try again next time they will have a chance to succeed,” Magaisa said.
His observation comes as the MDC led by Nelson Chamisa claims Zanu-PF colluded with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to deny him of victory in the 2018 general elections.
In 2013, Magaisa led team dropped a court challenge to overturn President Robert Mugabe election victory which they claimed Zanu-PF, had rigged the election. Its its own admission, MDC party said it hadn’t been given the information needed to prove its contention.
MDC-T couldn’t obtain materials to support their case. Among the items sought were an electronic version of the voter roll; a breakdown of votes by region; and the precise number of registered voters who were turned away.
“There was no reason to go along with the charade,” said Alex Magaisa
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In his blog , Magaisa argues that Zimbabwe’s elections are beset by crippling problems, which he cites as bias and lack of confidence in the electoral referees, the ZEC.
Writes Magaisa: “Confidence in the system of elections and how it is operated is crucial for the legitimacy of the outcome… ZANU PF thrives on an electoral system that is skewed in its favour. It controls the electoral management body and those who adjudicate over electoral disputes. It controls the state machinery, much of which is deployed to run elections.
“But above all, it is in cahoots with the military establishment, which has a stake in ZANU PF’s maintenance of power. A combination of these factors including violence, intimidation and bribery making the electoral route an expense charade.”
Magaisa argues that as a result of serial election losses by the MDC, young people have been disillusioned by Zimbabwe’s elections which only help keep Zanu-PF in power. In most of the by-elections conducted in 2019, the MDC lost to Zanu-PF by crushing margins.
“… the outcome of elections is pre-determined and ZANU PF will always do everything to avoid a declaration of outright defeat. The system which controls and manages the electoral system has no intention of giving up power and privilege,” Magaisa argues.
When Chamisa lost the 2018 elections, he took his case to the Constitutional Court and a whole nine-member bench of the country’s most senior judges threw his case out.
Zimbabwe holds the next harmonised elections in 2023, but before that, there will be a handful of by-elections between now and then, and nothing on the ground suggests that the MDC’s fortunes will improve.