De-Lending Legitimacy to the Electoral Process

Ryan Gosha
8 min readApr 30, 2021
  • Lending Legitimacy
  • De-Lending the Legitimacy
  • Handling the Perfidious Foreign Observers

The legitimacy of elections rests on transparency. An election should be free and fair in all of the following aspects.

  1. Candidate Selection
  2. Campaign
  3. Voting Process
  4. Appeal of Results

If an election is substantially wanting in any of the four areas, then it cannot be deemed free and fair. Elections in Zimbabwe usually have it right on the Candidate Selection and substantially fail the bar on the rest of the three items.

The campaign is always marred by state-sponsored violence and threats to the electorate, especially in rural areas. State media gives exclusive coverage to one political party, among many other ills.

The voting process is also shaky. Malpractice and fraud are rife, with rumors of ballot-box stuffing, voter intimidation, busing of people from other constituencies, et cetera. The counting of votes is also suspicious. The tallying and announcing of results is also suspicious with rumors of heavy involvement by state security agents in announcing the incorrect set of results.

The court system for appealing results is also broken, as the court cases are presided over by judges who are at the mercy of ruling politicians.

The four phases of the election are carefully managed by the state to give a very close semblance of being free and fair, but they are fundamentally neither free nor fair.

Electoral Reforms, as demanded by the MDC, would put in place mechanisms that allow for the election to be free and fair.

Lending Legitimacy

The MDC and other parties are aware that the elections are largely neither free nor fair. However, they still participate in the process.

The hope is that the elections could magically be free and fair and by the grace of God they can be rightfully declared the winner someday. They have to be in it, in order to win it. You cannot win an election that you have not participated in.

Their strategy is to participate, win and then contest the result of the election afterward. Under this strategy, they contest the legitimacy of the election that has been conducted, especially the result set.

An opposing strategy would be to refuse to participate in a shambolic election. Under this strategy, they would contest the legitimacy of the election before it is held.

If you don't participate in an election, you automatically don't win. If you participate, you still don't win but you have a numerical basis, a logistical basis, an administrative basis, et cetera to make an argument against the legitimacy of the results and the elections themselves.

By boycotting elections, you effectively present a logical, procedural, legal, and environmental basis against the legitimacy of an election. You basically claim that the conditions are not conducive to a free and fair election.

By choosing to participate, you effectively approve of the logical, procedural, legal, and environmental basis for the legitimacy of the election. You tacitly node your head that the conditions are conducive to a free and fair election. That is how you lend legitimacy to an election. It is by the mere virtue of participating.

Once the election is conducted, any complaint against how it was conducted is viewed as a complaint within the broader context of a free and fair election. Making serious complaints would be viewed as sour grapes. Moderate complaints would be tolerated as part of a vibrant democracy. Small complaints are encouraged.

To repeat; by virtue of participating in an election, you lend the electoral process some legitimacy. You bless it with your faith.

By proceeding with electoral campaigns, you are effectively sending a message that things are in order and we are hopeful that we will be announced the winner. Even if the incorrect set of results is announced later, you would have previously subtly expressed your faith (or hope if you are foolish) in the electoral commission that they would announce the correct set of results.

By ensuring the voting stations are populated with observers and party agents, you are effectively trusting the electoral process.

If the conditions under which an election is being conducted are so fundamentally flawed, then the MDC should not participate. By participating, the MDC lends legitimacy to the process. Anything that happens after is not that important. It's just smaller nyani-nyani that needs to be resolved, it's not fundamental.

If the conditions are fundamentally in order, it makes total sense to participate, not participating would be a travesty to common sense. The onus lies on the MDC to determine which conditions pass the bar of being fundamentally in order.

By choosing to participate in the voting process, the MDC approves of the voting process. Anything else is just noise. Why do they participate in the elections if they think they are being rigged over and over again? Maybe they know that the elections are not fundamentally flawed.

There could be some rigging here and there, but the MDC probably knows that the fundamentals are in place for them to win. That is why they are hopeful of victory in each election. They probably know that they did not hit the right numbers needed to win in previous elections but are able to do so in the future if they put more effort. They obviously cannot come out in the open and proclaim that the conditions are not right. This is how we can interpret the choices of their actions.

If however, they participate in the election process, knowing fully that the chances of being declared a winner when they win are very small, then they are stupid, because by the virtue of participating they lend legitimacy to the process, the legitimacy which would be used as a basis to deny them of the right to attack the legitimacy of the result, once the election is over.

The MDC leadership is either stupid or it's selling the population a dummy? Is it deliberately not being truthful and honest with the electorate? Food for thought.

De-Lending the Legitimacy

The fate of the MDC is known. They would not be allowed to be the winner of the election. That is the position of the securocrats.

Since that is the de-facto position, the MDC itself, as a party needs to ensure that they do not lend legitimacy to the electoral process. This basically calls for not participating in the shambolic elections.

Furthermore, actions that highlight the decisions not to participate need to be broadcasted. This does not change anything that much, regarding the day-to-day lives of Zimbabweans, but it saves the people the high doses of hopeium followed by depression.

Not participating exposes the reality to Zimbabweans. It could actually drum up support for the MDC. The people will know that there is much needed in order to obtain the changes they want. In the absence of delusions of an electoral victory, the people are hit by a sober reality of the situation they are in. Misplaced hope and faith do no good to society.

Without the legitimacy lent to the electoral process by the MDC, the election would be exposed for what is, a CCP type of rubber-stamping ceremony.

More actions could be performed to de-lend legitimacy to the electoral process. These actions could come from all sections of society, rather than just the MDC political party.

What's the end goal of de-lending legitimacy? The goal is to ensure that the elections are not viewed as legitimate, internally and externally.

  • That then becomes the basis for continued pressure on electoral reforms.
  • That then becomes the basis for dialogue.
  • That becomes the starting point of the political revolution.

This process of de-lending legitimacy is both necessary and legitimate. We cannot proceed without it. Attempts to proceed without it have failed, time and time again.

The process of de-lending legitimacy itself cannot fail. The ZANU PF and junta state can refuse to bulge in on reforms but very few will view their government as legitimate if the elections themselves are not legitimate.

The revolution has to struggle until it obtains the requisite electoral reforms which will usher in a new era of proper electoral democracy. Settling for anything other than that is going around in circles. The people are tired of these cycles.

Now, the eyes are on the 2023 elections, but it's another cycle of the campaign, hopeium, delirium, delusion, disappointment, contesting of results, and another long wait for the next election cycle. It has to stop. The democratic movement needs to focus on real and meaningful changes.

How to Handle the Perfidious Foreign Observers

Foreign Observers from the UN, EU, SADC et cetera lend legitimacy to the electoral process by stamping an election as free and fair. They send a signal to the outside world that whoever is declared the winner is legitimate enough to rule.

The so-called foreign observers will always stamp an election free and fair even if it is not. They have a template with pre-populated criteria that they use to assess elections in Zimbabwe. The criteria are different from what they would apply elsewhere. It is one whereby the standard has been lowered to extremely unacceptable levels, should those levels have been applied anywhere else.

The default view that the people ought to take towards foreign observer missions for the shambolic elections should be that of skepticism and resentment.

Beyond resentment, Zimbabweans should actively chase foreign observers out of their communities and out of the country. Why would the UN foreign observers want to accept a standard that they would not accept in their own home countries?

UN, EU, SADC all smell of betrayal.

Betrayal, betrayal, betrayal. We deserve the same standard of free and fair elections that they have. Why do they lower the bar when it comes to Zimbabwe?

Zimbabweans are not enjoying free and fair elections. The observers know that, but they ignore it. They bear false witness. To that, we should have a response. As Zimbabweans, we should not allow them to “freely and fairly” bear false witness. The friends of our enemies should be our enemies.

When observers are not impartial, they effectively choose one side. By not raising the alarm that we are being raped, observers effectively take the side of those who are raping us.

De-Lending Legitimacy to the Electoral process implies that we (the ones who are not voting freely and fairly) should make concerted actions at stopping the treacherous foreign observers from committing treachery. We already know that they are going to rubber-stamp the election as free and fair regardless of the realities on the ground.

De-Lending legitimacy in this context thus means stopping observers from observing for it is the false and fake act of “observation” that allows them to stand on the podium and proclaim, “free and fair”. They would not have that privilege if they were never in Zimbabwe. We should not give them the chance to bear false witness.