WHEN I wrote about coalition governments last year and suggested it would happen in Zanzibar, few people paid attention. Now it has happened – not through prediction but from political analysis. Zanzibaris have voted in a referendum to pave way for a government of national unity involving two major parties, CCM and CUF, that have practised the politics of rivarly for 15 years consecutively. It looks like a trend now: Kenya, Zimbabwe, UK and Zanzibar (Tanzania). Who is next?
What ZANU-PF has been doing in Zimbabwe, CCM is doing in Zanzibar. And if anything, Zanzibar is deliberately turning into an ugly face of Tanzania, characterized by the politics of terror, outright vote rigging, and police and military intervention in elections since 1995.
Proud of systematic vote rigging and shamelessly vowing to ‘never let’ the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) rule Zanzibar – by all means – some ruling party stalwarts claim they operate by a silent formula: ‘you win, we rule.’
This formula is working to the detriment of Zanzibar. In 1995 the Spice Islands almost became ungovernable after election results gave CCM incumbent Salim Amour 50.24 % of votes against Seif Sharrif Hamad’s 49.76 %.
Five years later, in January 2001, the government deployed and ordered armed police to shoot and kill protesters following another obviously rigged election, whereby the government, on the brink of defeat, ordered police to confiscate ballot boxes from returning officers. They hid them for two weeks, after which the Zanzibar Electoral Commission released results giving the ruling party contender, Amani Karume, a 67.04 % victory. Dozens of rioting civilians died for opposing this government’s winning strategy.
And in 2005, the government resorted to the deployment of the army, which complemented the presence and operation of police forces on every polling station to exert government brutality and abuse of power, in a situation that looked like everything belonged to the government and ruling party: the media, electoral commission, police, army and, of course, the election itself.
Nevertheless, so strong was the opposition that, even with such tactics and resources, the incumbent, Amani Karume, was declared winner by a slim margin of 53.18% against Seif Shariff Hamad’s 46.07%. What if there had been a fair process and share of resources, plus access to voters? What if police and army were not involved in voting illegally and terrorizing voters? What if there were no ineligible, sponsored, mercenary voters from other parts of the country? What if there was no media muzzling by the government? What if there was no ‘you win, we rule’ scheme?
No wonder, then, seeking to temporarily quell local frustrations and appease the international community, the ruling party resorted to engaging the opposition in mwafaka (accord) to address the ‘problems’ of Zanzibar, the cause of which is known to both parties. But, after three consecutive years of negotiation, they have not been able to reach a sound, workable agreement.
Word is out, however, that given the ever rising unpopularity of the ruling party, and based on political episodes in Kenya and Zimbabwe, a power-sharing agreement for a coalition government in Zanzibar is a next possibility after 2010 elections, because the ruling party is pretty sure that the ‘you win, we rule’ tricks cannot go on forever.
With no incumbent contender in 2010, the level of opposition and vote rigging might be on a different scale, but all indications show the ruling party is already involved in a similar scheme, 14 months before next elections.
Interestingly, the government is not waiting for surprises. It is currently tampering with the voters register in Pemba – the opposition stronghold – causing fresh protests from angry civilians, offices being set alight and police opening fire at protestors. Once again, a police state; another Zimbabwe!
The reaction from Tanzania’s main funders (34 percent of the budget), the European Union and the US government, calling for correction of the flaws in the voter registration process, has received unfriendly counter-reactions from the ruling party’s youth wing and the Zanzibar government, but the message is clear. Once again, Zanzibar is involved in the politics of confusion, whereby, when it is in the interested of the ruling party, laws do override the constitution.
The road towards 2010 general elections is full of bumps to frustrate a smooth ride to Zanzibar’s free and fair elections. And if anyone must do something to save Zanzibar, this is the time to act. It is not enough for EU and US to show concerns in written statements, and yet fund the same process with the hope of sending election observers in October 2010 to find out if the elections will be ‘free and fair.’
Rigging has already started, and it should be put to a halt by concerted efforts of good citizens, morally responsible leaders in Tanzania, as well as its regional and international friends – including donors.
Even with the Zanzibar government and the ruling party lambasting the EU and US for meddling into a sovereign country’s internal affairs – the same excuses used by President Robert Mugabe to defend his political miscalculations in Zimbabwe – something needs to be done now, to save Zanzibar from becoming another Zimbabwe.
As it stands, Zanzibar is deliberately deteriorating into a country where voters have no rights because, after all, it is not their vote that counts, but a decision by those who manage the electoral process – those who wait for others to win, for them to rule.
FIRST it was Kenya, then Zimbabwe. Now, it is Madagascar’s turn on the road to the demise of, and conspiracy against, democracy in Africa. Surprisingly, African politicians – more of rulers than leaders – are the conspirators plunging the continent in utter chaos by denying winners and losers their due.
In ordinary democracy, especially when it comes to elections, we expect to have winners and losers; the ruling party and the opposition. And no politician or political party, however popular, can enjoy support of all citizens. Above all, a healthy democracy gives room to opposition and challenge.
But a trend is emerging in African politics with incumbent presidents losing elections, yet clinging to power by all means and calling for power-sharing schemes with the opposition; and in so doing denying voters their only chance of making changes through a ballot box; and once more frustrating any reforms that would have come with a peaceful change of regime.
Kenyans and Zimbabweans did not get what they voted for in their last general elections. And they are still enduring the same misery they wanted to get rid of when they were chanting ‘change, change’ during campaign.
Of course, ultimately, the only change made possible was the opposition being part of the government in a coalition meant to immediately avert further bloodshed, deaths and displacements; and, in the long-run, to push a reform agenda within the government of national unity in Kenya.
But what has become of it after a year or so, is what critics refer to as a government of national impunity! And it took US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her recent visit to Kenya, to bring to the attention of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga the frustration of the Obama administration at their failure to show Kenyans and the world that reforms were taking shape.
Among other things, she particularly wanted them to save their country from impunity by acting on an extra judicial killings report by Prof Phillip Alston, calling for the sacking of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and Attorney General Amos Wako.
In Zimbabwe, the displacement of people started even before the elections, and has gone on even now with the coalition government in place, and President Robert Mugabe (leader of ZANU-PF) enjoying ‘more executive powers’ than his ‘equal’ partner, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Much as I admire Odinga and Tsvangirai’s unwavering commitment to democratic activism in their respective countries and the inspiration they have given to the majority of citizens in the quest for change and reform, I am not amazed at the fact that they have failed to change their presidents from executive strong men to equal partners in their coalition governments. And this has led to another setback. No change of system to replace their strong men with strong systems, as put by US President Barack Obama.
And without equal executive powers between the president and the prime minister, no change is going to happen in these countries because the former stand for the status quo – and unfortunately, they have a final say in big matters, regardless of what the power-sharing accord says in print. To the disadvantage of Odinga and Tsvangirai, a section of population that used to follow them instinctively is beginning to see them differently. Not offering solutions, they are becoming part of the problem.
With the Kibaki-Odinga administration failing to deal squarely with impunity and do reforms, while Mugabe’s ZANU-PF thugs still terrorise opposition supporters and refuse settlement to displaced villagers who had fled the post-election violence that preceded the power-sharing government, it would not be unfair to say these coalition governments have served short-term purposes of quelling down violence, averting killings and further displacement to a certain extent; but they have failed to implement a bigger agenda as spelt out in election manifestoes and in the power-sharing accords.
Surprisingly, though, other African countries are on the queue for coalitions. In Madagascar, political leaders of opposing parties are considering a political accord for a transitional government – probably towards a power-sharing regime in the style of Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Although, the Malagasy scenario is different – emanating from a military-backed civilian coup – the likelihood is, it will all go the Kenya or Zimbabwe way, which is, so far, not worth emulating for two reasons. It kills the opposition and makes an inefficient government in the style of a self-divided kingdom; hence stalling any efforts for meaningful reforms. And just recently, the transparency corruption index for East African issues recently said it was getting difficult to fix corruption with the divided government in power.
But as long as incumbents lose and cling to power, the only means they have to appease angry voters and the international community is calling for power-sharing agreements to legitimize their rigging, to weaken opposition, to perpetuate corruption and further stifle democracy.
IF results in Zimbabwe’s 2008 general elections are something to go by, the recently installed power-sharing government has more negatives than positives for the rest of Africa. To some extent, it is a bad lesson Zimbabwe learnt from Kenya, whose last elections (2007), too, were a defilement of democracy.
It is an undeniable truth that in both countries, incumbents lost elections but clang to power. Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki broke world records by taking the oath of office within half an hour after the controversial results had been announced – paving way for public protests that led to catastrophic tribal clashes, people displacements, bloodshed and deaths throughout the country. He had to give in to opposition demands and international pressure to form an inclusive, power-sharing government in a new constitutional set up.
Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe used police and the army to terrorize opposition supporters after learning that he lost the election. His incumbency and political tricks earned him only 43 percent of popular votes, while his rival Morgan Tvangirai got 47 percent – 4 percent short of consitutional requirement to declare him winner! But Mugabe eventually emerged winner in a second round that he managed to contest unopposed after Tsvangirai withdrew in protest to Mugabe’s dirty and brutal tactics against the opposition.
Again, public disapproval and international pressure have forced Mugabe to accept the reality of sharing power with the opposition – that had won the popular vote in the first place.
And if there are any winners, Mugabe and Kibaki are. But they are not happy because they are evil winners! They know how much they lost people’s trust and support. In both cases, the truth that keeps running and ringing is that losers were declared winners against people’s wishes.
And the lesson it gives to the rest of Africa – which is still struggling to find its place in the democratic world – is a bad one. Incumbent losers will never relinquish power. They will seek to rule in a power-sharing government because it is becoming a fashion, a way to legitimize evil-earned power.
As it goes, Zimbabwe and Kenya are setting an evil precedent for the rest of Africa. And given the fact the Zimbabwe power-sharing government was eventually mediated by leaders of the Southern African Development Countries (SADC), it is deliberately becoming a political blessing to the tricks of rigging elections.
We may not have to wait long before witnessing the third power-sharing government. Will it be Zanzibar’s turn after October 2010 elections?