Zim does not need 107 political parties

By Gift Phiri

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said there are 107 political parties running for the 2018 elections comprising largely an assortment of small parties.

Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai take part in a Harare rally by the main opposition parties calling for free and fair elections next year
Supporters of then Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai take part in a Harare rally by the main opposition parties calling for free and fair elections

That might seem harmless, but in the strange, convoluted netherworld of Zimbabwean politics, a lot of the minor parties are useless and mysterious. They crowd the ballot, convolute the debate and confuse the voters.

Some opposition parties claim many of these are a creation of Zanu PF.

What makes this system especially confounding is that we are having 107 political parties in a $4bn GDP economy, when a $19,7 trillion United States economy, for instance, has just two political parties.

Look at mature democracies such as the US and United Kingdom, they have a two-way or three-way party system respectively. Surely, 107 parties is far too many for a small country like this.

The kaleidoscope of Zimbabwe’s current political scene — with dozens of largely minute political parties in the running alongside the major parties — can’t be democracy in action, hell no!

Why all these separate parties in the first place? Our problems arise out of an absence of a philosophy towards convergence. Politics has become a business model, a private limited venture. Everyone who fails in business tries a hand in politics.

Zimbabwean parliamentarians must now enact laws to cap the number of parties that can contest the election, say a maximum of five to make the ballot less of a muddle.

Can you imagine a ballot with 107 political parties? How many pages will that be? This is unprecedented.

Surely, we need to galvanise the support into a few political parties.

Looking closely at these parties, it seems they are all pushing for a common set of interests or ideologies. It means they can be slashed to a maximum of five major national parties.

From the interviews of presidential candidates conducted by the Daily News so far, it seems they share similar objectives and ideologies and must merge, align or forge an alliance purposely to reduce the number and to be more effective. Besides, too many political parties serve no purpose except to confuse the electorate.

Meanwhile, the traditional parties have been riven by internal discord and breakaway members, suffering elite dis-cohesion from the ruling party to the major opposition parties.

With this multiplicity of parties, it is a fait accompli that a fragmented result is inevitable, and a one-party absolute majority remains virtually out of the question, meaning we are headed for a run-off election.

Given the 2008 run-off scenario where we witnessed widespread and systematic abuses that led to the killing of up to 200 people, the beating and torture of 5 000 more, and the displacement of about 36 000 people, this prospect is just too ghastly to contemplate.

And this crowded ballot paper also risk producing a “hung Parliament” or a situation in which no one wins an overall majority and whoever ends up trying to form a government has to rely on a formal or informal agreement of support from another party to govern.

These 107 parties must simply do pacts and deals to produce coalitions instead of them fighting all out for a win in the mid-year election.

The parties we have interviewed so far have snapped with indignation at proposals to form a coalition. In fact, most of the presidential candidates we have interviewed in our series of interviews view with condescension the complex and often lengthy horse-trading required to form coalitions.

In conclusion, it is clear the immense flaw in the Zimbabwean electoral process is the wide array of candidates, all touting themselves as viable candidates.

Zimbabwe doesn’t need to open itself to fly-by-night candidates by adding more parties to appease dissatisfied voters. There is an easier answer.

Simply put, Zimbabwe doesn’t need more parties. If anything, it needs more voters. DailyNews

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