Home » General » Briefing – Zimbabwe's post-electoral challenges – 13-09-2018

Zimbabwe's post-electoral challenges

13-09-2018

As international isolation is no longer economically bearable, Zimbabwe has been searching for legitimacy on the global stage. The post-Mugabe transition government, from a ruling party fraction, committed itself to free and fair elections and invited international observers for first time in 16 years. But much-awaited change in Zimbabwe needs much more than a newly elected president and legislature. The country suffers from institutional dysfunction driven by years of a de facto one-party, military-backed regime, characterised by rampant corruption and systematic patronage, securing the capture of key economic areas and political institutions by party elites. The victory of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), in both the legislative and presidential elections, and the deadly crackdown on the opposition that followed, seriously undermine the prospects for genuine Zimbabwean democracy. Although international observers assessed the electoral process as relatively free and competitive, it took place on an uneven playing field due to years of ZANU-PF domination. EU observers, in particular, expressed strong concern regarding the intimidation of voters, the pro-state bias of the media, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's (ZEC) lack of transparency. Some observers have indeed warned that the ousting of Robert Mugabe, which had raised so many hopes, was just part of a power reshuffle inside Zimbabwe's authoritarian regime, meant to protect the interests of the governing elites. Indeed, powerful forces obstruct change in Zimbabwe, seeking the sole preservation of their economic interests in the renewed political context. It is likely that the newly-elected President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will pursue some economic reform, especially to attract foreign investors, while maintaining political control from above. In this situation, the EU, having declared its readiness to fully re-engage with Zimbabwe, has to use every lever to induce structural changes and to support civil society in this deeply corrupt and dysfunctional state.

As international isolation is no longer economically bearable, Zimbabwe has been searching for legitimacy on the global stage. The post-Mugabe transition government, from a ruling party fraction, committed itself to free and fair elections and invited international observers for first time in 16 years. But much-awaited change in Zimbabwe needs much more than a newly elected president and legislature. The country suffers from institutional dysfunction driven by years of a de facto one-party, military-backed regime, characterised by rampant corruption and systematic patronage, securing the capture of key economic areas and political institutions by party elites. The victory of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), in both the legislative and presidential elections, and the deadly crackdown on the opposition that followed, seriously undermine the prospects for genuine Zimbabwean democracy. Although international observers assessed the electoral process as relatively free and competitive, it took place on an uneven playing field due to years of ZANU-PF domination. EU observers, in particular, expressed strong concern regarding the intimidation of voters, the pro-state bias of the media, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's (ZEC) lack of transparency. Some observers have indeed warned that the ousting of Robert Mugabe, which had raised so many hopes, was just part of a power reshuffle inside Zimbabwe's authoritarian regime, meant to protect the interests of the governing elites. Indeed, powerful forces obstruct change in Zimbabwe, seeking the sole preservation of their economic interests in the renewed political context. It is likely that the newly-elected President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will pursue some economic reform, especially to attract foreign investors, while maintaining political control from above. In this situation, the EU, having declared its readiness to fully re-engage with Zimbabwe, has to use every lever to induce structural changes and to support civil society in this deeply corrupt and dysfunctional state.

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