The 2018 Election Credibility Survey: An insider’s perspective

Richard Runyararo Mahomva
Last month after the June 5 MDC Alliance demonstration on electoral reforms, I was part of a team which carried out the much debated 2018 Election Credibility Survey.
The exercise is part of the many research projects I have participated in.

The principal aim of the survey was to evaluate the authenticity of the ceaseless calls for electoral reform by the MDC Alliance.

While the monopoly to disseminate an electoral crisis by the MDC Alliance gained more fame on social media, one would have been deterred from carrying out such a task.

Worse still, just a week before the release of the research findings, the MDC Alliance declared Harare a war-zone, with marchers piercing their way to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s headquarters.

Some colleagues were even sceptical about the task we had already undertaken.  At the same time, not releasing the findings of the survey was not an option.

It was, as it still is, important for Zimbabweans, Sadc, the Africa Union and the rest of the world to know the credibility index of the much anticipated 2018 election.

It was even of more value to national interest that such research findings were shared with every rational Zimbabwean. So on Tuesday, July 17, the 2018 Election Credibility Survey was launched.

The voice of the people had to be heard. Not just the voice of those who only marched at the behest of social media provocations and bridled emotions to satisfy a sectorial defiance to the path that the entire nation has vowed to take come July 30.

What was our motivation?

The key purpose of the survey was to collect diverse public opinions on the electoral environment and the prevailing conditions potential to produce an outcome with domestic and international credibility. This is because the opposition has been projecting a view that the enabling conditions for the election are quite repressive.

As a result, it was key to get a citizen perspective in a bid to counter or endorse this proposition. Therefore, part of our enquiry revolved around the autonomy of crucial election stakeholders, namely: ZEC and the security forces, as well as evaluating the current state of our Press and broadcasting liberties in the country.

The survey also gave an opportunity to measure the level to which the public is aware of the country’s electoral statutes. As a result, the research intended to produce an alternative take to the contested accounts by political elites on the proposed path to an indisputable election.

It’s obvious and natural that political parties would create realities which are divorced from the truth in order to validate their interest.

That is what all political parties do. Those with a fair appreciation of political science will agree with me that this is part of realism.

Against that reality, the study had to draw views from the voter. Imagine if this survey was confined to political elites, particularly those who think the election must be suspended if their demands to annex power are not met.

Going by Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan perspective generated in 1642, Hobbes spoke of the “war for all against all” as part of the politician’s character to serve self-interest.

In 2018, such can be attributed to the prevailing political situation in Zimbabwe. Here one politician wages a war against their own immediate counterparts and, thus, aggravating the internal party feuds to a point of even fighting for the ownership of the party’s name, its property and its campaign funds.

Now this misfiring has even seen the pulling of the trigger at the self by Mr Chamisa. Instead of campaigning, he has dedicated his time to incessantly fighting with ZEC.

With this in sight, what Hobbes highlighted in theory can still be traced to our context where a politician decides to be “selfish, nasty and brutish” – and would even want an election to be suspended simply because the constitutionality of the election process is not in his favour.

This is why such a survey had to be carried out, to demystify the ego of the political.  There was need to gather an apolitical truth about the roadmap to the election.

The ego of the political

Because the ego of the political sometimes overrides the rationale of conceding to defeat, there was need for a fairly balanced research whose findings are going to assist all political actors to positively embrace the outcome of the 2018 election.

Basing on the findings of this study, it is now clear that there is going to be one dominant force which election outcome will present.

This is because 76 percent of the survey respondents have indicated that there is no need for further electoral reforms. A greater part of the reforms enjoyed by Zimbabweans today are part of the resolutions which emerged from Parliament. As a result, this renders Mr Chamisa’s war against ZEC invalid.

It is clear that his protest against ZEC does not draw its mandate from the 10 provinces of this country where the survey was carried out.  Now that the study has indicated a 70 percent public affinity towards ZEC, it’s now clear that the attacks on the election process are not credible.

On that note, this reaffirms the primary objective of the study to persuade ZEC and other key election stakeholders to maintain a dispassionate role in executing their constitutionally prescribed mandates. Likewise, the outcomes of this public enquiry gave a fair articulation of this position, particularly with regards to how ZEC has acquitted itself in delivering a free and fair election.

The aesthetics of a Second Republic

The authors of this survey were also concerned about giving the international community a fair appreciation of the country’s political environment in the run-up to the 2018 harmonised elections. Over the years, some sections of civic society and the academia have castigated Zimbabwe’s democratic system for being flawed and characterised by electoral fraud in favour of the ruling party.

The opposition has used this position to incessantly challenge the credibility of the electoral system in Zimbabwe.

Against a background of a trail of allegations of electoral theft, which have disfigured the reputation of Zimbabwe in the international community, it was essential that this kind of research be undertaken.

Africa and the rest of the world must be in a position to know that the past is buried and that the new has been born.

To affirm this position, 71 percent of the sampled population commended ZEC for introducing the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system.  The very same registered respondents overwhelmingly indicated their interest to preserve the status-quo. Eighty-eight percent of these voters also submitted that they see this election as very crucial in positioning the country for political and socio-economic progress.  The public’s comfort in this election is derived from the current peaceful environment. Therefore, this substantiates that Zimbabweans are eager to take part in this democratic process with reinvigorated optimism for:

◆ Social cohesion and integration in tandem with the far-reaching agenda for nation-building;

◆ Re-tooling of the country’s extractive, secondary and tertiary industries;

◆ State-led elimination of corruption in the interest curbing illicit financial flows;

◆ Infrastructural development to boost the public service delivery system;

◆ Indigenous and Foreign Direct Investment flows

◆ Richard Mahomva is a political-scientist with avid interest in classic and modern political theory. He also has a distinct passion around the architecture of governance in Africa and is a literary aficionado.

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