It is now clear that the warring political factions in Zimbabwe will in the coming weeks form a government of national unity, comprising members of Robert Mugabe’s ZANU/PF party and the opposition Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party.
To common Zimbabweans, whom peace and order had become elusive in the past months, this should come as a relief. They expect the country to become stable and probably the inclusion of the West’s blue-eyed boy Tsvangirai into the government will help resuscitate their ailing economy.
On the surface, this looks a juicy deal; but deep down it is a total travesty to justice and democracy. The purpose of holding elections is to enable voters pick a candidate they consider favourite. The criteria of choice may differ from aspects like tribalism, ability to solve economic problems or even physical appearance; but the rationale is that the most popular candidate at the end of the day should be declared victor.
But looking at this new fashion of coalition governments, it is obvious that Africa is slowly murdering the purpose of elections.
In Kenya, which also has a government of national unity, it was common knowledge that President Kibaki had been given a bloody nose by Raila Odinga’s ODM. Unwilling to hand over total power and with blood being shed, Kibaki agreed to ‘share’ power. Of course the biggest beneficiary here was the loser in the elections.
The same scenario replays in Zimbabwe. Defeated on March 29, Mugabe made it very difficult for his opponent to freely campaign in the run-off. With his thugs, he terrorized opposition supporters until Tsvangirai threw in the towel.
Knowing how illegitimate his government is, Mugabe is now willing to ‘share’ power. Probably cede some cabinet posts to the opposition and create a semblance of normalcy.
The truth is that the biggest loser in these arrangements is democracy. We should not conduct elections where people are sure they will rig blatantly and thereafter give a few concessions to their opponents and all seems well.
Of course the opposition can be blamed over this. One wonders why they would choose to share power with people they have defeated in elections, but probably their decision is understandable.
They are like the genuine mother of the baby in the Biblical story of King Solomon, who unwilling to see her baby chopped to be shared with another woman, offers to give up on her claim, just to make sure that the toddler lives.
But the bottom line is that many leaders, unwilling to leave power, are going to use this new phenomenon as a soft landing. They will rig opponents out of victory and offer the olive branch to in form of a government of national unity.
Curiously, it is the West fronting this mode of election dispute resolution in Africa. It should be rejected totally. We either have elections where the winner is declared fairly or we just forget about polls. There should be no middle line between democracy and totalitarianism.