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Zimbabwe’s “Elections in July” ruling just one more part of the farce

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I have to agree with Zimbabwe’s Deputy Chief Justice Malaba, who has said that the Constitutional Court’s ruling that elections in Zimbabwe must be held by 31 July “defied logic.”

As the Guardian points out, Malaba critiqued the ruling for contradictorily both censuring Mugabe for being in breach of his constitutional responsibilities “and at the same time authorising him to continue acting unlawfully” by proclaiming a July date.

And this is exactly the problem. Never mind larger issues like media reform, or the tricky question of redefining just what Zimbabweans are voting for in terms of proportional representation, a new addition with the new Constitution. As David Coltart helpfully spelt out to the Daily News, there are a number of basic steps that have to happen on the way to an election date. All of this means that Mugabe can’t, actually, declare today that an election will be held on or before 31 July – It’s too late for that. So how does Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court set an arbitrary date by which an election must be held – knowing that this will force illegal actions – and thereby violating the rights not only of the disenfranchised voters who brought the legal petition in the first place, but all of Zimbabwe’s other voters?

We asked some of our subscribers whether elections before 31 July could be free and fair, and they were sceptical:

  • These elections won’t be free and fair
  • No to July 31 election. Not enough time for reforms
  • It’s a plan from Zanu PF and its allies not to hold credible elections. It’s risky coz the issue of reforms aren’t ripe.

“Zimbabwe’s authorities cannot expect to create a rights-respecting environment ahead of elections in the context of repression, harassment, and intimidation of civil society activists,” Human Rights Watch’s Tiseke Kasambala said in March.

Personally, it’s hard not to feel like this is playing right into Mugabe’s hands. He gets to “declare” elections without critical reforms because not doing so would be in violation of “the independence of the judiciary.” Meanwhile, the fact that actually having the election before 31 July would, at this stage, require a violation of some of the steps which, legally, have to happen before an election? Well, when did this government ever let the law stop them from doing what they want?

In short, it’s just not possible to have legal elections by the 31st of July, never mind free and fair ones, or credible ones.  Oh yeah – When did that ever stop them either?

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