Photo : Nelson Chamisa
Zimbabwe goes to the poll on Jul 30 to elect a President. At different times, Zimbabwe shared/shares several similarities to Guyana like: ethnic and religious diversity, colonial power, dictatorship, a divided nation, cries of discrimination and ethnic cleansing, endemic graft and corruption, collapsed economy, runaway inflation, “valueless” currency (dollar), capital flight, rigged elections, electoral violence, biased election commission, government affiliated chair of the election commission, press censorship, anti-opposition violence, anti-Americanism, anti-Whiteism, anti-Indianism,global ostracism, brain drain, depopulation caused by massive people migration, crippling debt, widespread hunger, economic basket case from being bread basket of the world, crumpled agriculture, etc.
On electoral matters, the central question in Zimbabwe as it is now in Guyana is whether the next (general) election will be free and fair. Evidence points against such an outcome. As in Guyana, it is feared that the next election will not reflect the will of the population. In both countries, old questions of credibility and vote-rigging are common. It is the conversation everywhere. As in Guyana, in Zimbabwe, the opposition and over half the population is convinced that the election will be rigged given past experience; evidence also supports that view. As in Guyana, the ruling side and its supporters feel the election will be fair and their party will win. As in Guyana, international election observers will monitor the voting process.
Monday’s election in Zimbabwe is the first in almost four years without the influence of the ousted strong man Robert Mugabe who was toppled in a bloodless military coup last November. Guyana’s Forbes Burnham was like Mugabe; they both were ruthless dictators without mercy on the opposition. They both were condemned by world bodies and international leaders for human rights violations and rigged elections.
Photo : Mnangagwa
In Zimbabwe, unlike in Guyana, to be elected President, a candidate needs to have an outright majority of the votes. If not, there will be a run off between the top two vote getters. The legislature or parliament is elected in a separate vote. Some analysts, like Ralph Ramkarran and this writer, suggest a somewhat similar electoral system for the Presidency and legislature of Guyana -- in the Presidential vote, the winner becomes President and the runner up the Prime Minister; the cabinet comprises of a proportion of members from each party based on percentage in the assembly. The major parties in Guyana are not enthused with such a proposal. Zimbabwe had such an outcome in one rigged election; the global community and Nelson Mandela forced Mubage to accept that outcome after he lost the rigged election.
For the first time since its independence in 1980, Mugabe will not be on the ballot.
In Zimbabwe, as in Guyana, the Presidential term is five years. There is no term limit.
As reports point out, Jul 30 election will determine the country’s future in the world after so many years of being punished by the international community for electoral frauds and ethnic cleansing policies. The nature and outcome of the election (free and fair) will also shape Zimbabwe’s political and economic outlook.
There are almost two dozens Presidential aspirants. But the two main contenders are the military installed incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa’s of the ruling party (Zanu-PF coalition) who was a ruthless deputy of Mugabe and Nelson Chamisa of the somewhat united opposition (Movement for Democratic Change - Alliance)
Neutral opinion polls point to a dead heat although a government funded poll say the ruling party will win a landslide. The Opposition claims its poll shows it winning a landslide. International observers say the election is very close.
One issue that will determine the outcome is the padding of some three million fake registrants. It benefits the ruling party. In the past, as in Guyana, the ruling party used to recycle the voters some of who cast ballots up to a hundred times. The opposition and observers will have to prevent vote rigging if the outcome is to truly represent the will of the people. The same is also of Guyana where the infrastructure is being put into place for rigging.