The March 2022 By-election Litmus Test: Authoritarian Resilience or Democratic Resistance

The latest ZDI publication provides an overview of the just held March 2022 by-elections. The publication demonstrates how the election’s dynamics might trigger the building and strengthening of authoritarian infrastructure going forward as we draw close to the 2023 general election. Read on!

The security forces’ role in electoral and transition processes in post-independence Zimbabwe cannot be underestimated. This role can be traced back to the political setup of the nationalist movements in pre-independence Zimbabwe. The liberation war in the 1970s was spearheaded by two military wings which were affiliated with two main nationalist movements namely the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). The Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) army wing was affiliated to ZANU while ZAPU was affiliated with the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA). These two armies laid the foundations of the current Zimbabwean army (Ruhanya, 2017). After the attainment of political independence by Zimbabwe in 1980, it took 7 years of military violence for ZANU and ZAPU to merge into one political party called the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) which is currently in power in Zimbabwe. The liberation war armies and their affiliate political parties shaped Zimbabwe’s political future in more than one way.

With the military in Zimbabwe effectively becoming the decisive power bloc in the country’s transition politics, the research comes in a context where the transition is eagerly awaited as the country is heading towards, yet another watershed harmonized election scheduled to take place in 2023. It is therefore important that the role of the military in electoral processes be re-examined and work towards the promotion of electoral transparency and accountability to foster democratic transition in Zimbabwe. The involvement of the military personnel in civilian and political affairs normally yields adverse impacts. In line with this view, McAlister (1965:86) posits that the military man cannot be a good man, and Adams (1907:250) adds to say a standing army, when allowed to get into government programmes is always dangerous to the liberties of the people. Thus, this study examines the military role in democratic transition and uses a review of case studies to inform best practices in the electoral and transition politics in Zimbabwe.

Read the full publication here (1MB PDF)

Source: ZDI

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