By Tapiwa Gomo
IN the past three weeks, I discussed the importance of reforms ahead of the 2023 elections. While the discussion is gaining momentum, it is yet to be matched by action on the ground.
The objective of reforms is not to target a political party but to ensure a conducive and balanced electoral and political environment. That is the cornerstone of democracy. Even the ruling Zanu PF party is aware of this. If it was in opposition, it would not win elections under current conditions.
Today I will open a discussion on one of the ways the 2023 elections can be approached by opposition parties.
The instalment draws from some topical discussions on social media last week. The discussions were on either to rally behind one major opposition party or to approach the election as a coalition.
Some supporters of the MDC Alliance are of the view that everyone must join their tent and work under their party. They claim to have resources, structures and the people. They are still obsessing over the two million plus votes they claim from 2018 elections. Voter support is fluid and so are party membership and voting patterns. Some people possess paid up ruling party cards, just to access benefits and opportunities, but they never vote for Zanu PF. Every election is a new venture.
Nonetheless, joining their tent implies that other political parties and organisations will have to cede their identities and ideologies to the MDC Alliance and possibly not being able to field candidates at any level from their parties. Some think, especially those parties and organisations that have chances of winning seats in Parliament or local government, that this would be an unfair to them.
There are those who are cautious about the MDC Alliance tent approach. They draw lessons from the coup of November 2017 when the ruling duped everyone by initially describing the ouster of the late former President Robert Mugabe as a people project before announcing that it was in fact a ruling party internal matter.
However, some open-minded folks suggest a coalition is the best way forward because not everyone must be forced to be a member of the MDC Alliance. In addition, other parties and organisations can still survive without losing their identities and ideologies while enjoying opportunities to field candidates in areas where they feel they have chances of winning seats.
It is my view that the people of Zimbabwe, mainly those opposed to the continued ruling party’s stay in power, must define the preferred possible outcome for the 2023 election. And that should inform a possibly effective route between an MDC Alliance-fronted approach and a coalition approach.
The result may be the same, that is if they choose an MDC Alliance leader as the front person, but the claim to victory and accountabilities will be different.
The MDC Alliance-fronted approach prescribes its entire leadership and some selected individuals as candidates for the next election thus submerging and swallowing those parties that would have joined their tent.
This approach is premised on the presumption of a Nelson Chamisa and his MDC Alliance victory. This is very clear from ardent MDC Alliance supporters.
For them it is either Chamisa or no one. I guess they are oblivious that the ruling party possesses huge expertise in dealing with opposition political parties than coalitions.
On the other hand, a coalition approach’s goal is to remove the ruling party from power by bringing together the people and all democratic forces to rally behind that cause.
This entails bringing Zimbabweans in various capacities and organisations of different backgrounds to work on and implement a campaign strategy that delivers a people’s victory.
The outcome of that approach is a broad-based people victory — one whose accountabilities lie with the people of Zimbabwe.
It is the foundation of a people-driven democracy. The government formed after that victory will be a people government made up of individuals of various socio-economic and political expertise and backgrounds enabling them to establish a good foundation for democracy and accountabilities to the people.
Coalition governments are known to represent a broader range of people and a wider range of views, therefore, making them more democratic and fairer.
There are voters out there who are neither MDC Alliance nor ruling party and once they believe their smaller parties have a chance of being part of the government and have political power, they will likely vote for a party they really feel represents them rather than being dragged into tents whose ideology they do not subscribe to.
In addition, coalition governments allow a wider range of opinions to be involved and policies are likely to be informed by a rich and wide range of points of view than party ideologies.
The government of nation unity of 2009 is an example of how coalitions can improve efficiency and accountabilities. And of course, there is the traditional option of all opposition political parties going it alone as they often do.
After the establishment of the Political Actors Dialogue in 2018, creating political parties is now a lucrative project which rewards losing presidential candidates, while giving the ruling party comfort and enabling it to continuously fiddle with political power.
This is another clear sign of how individualism is killing prospects for democracy and development.
The MDC, before it transformed into what it is today, was formed from members of a broad coalition of civic society groups and individuals that successfully campaigned for a “No” vote in the 2000 constitutional referendum and the 2002 presidential elections narrowly and controversially won by the ruling party.
Once the MDC started assuming the makeup of a single ideology political party some members of the coalition began to pull out. But the 2000 constitutional referendum and the 2002 presidential elections are examples of what coalitions can achieve in unsettling the ruling party.