No debate about alternative electoral systems

Most Zimbabweans, including politicians and journalists, have little or no understanding of alternative electoral systems. In an attempt to rectify this, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and the Media Institute of Southern Africa organized workshops for media practitioners earlier this year.

In addition, ZESN embarked on a country-wide outreach programme to enlighten the public on alternative electoral systems. At times they met with stiff resistance from Zanu (PF) officials and traditional leaders. Although the MDC seems to embrace the idea of proportional representation, an electoral system where parties would get seats proportional to votes garnered, they have only recommended this for Senate seats. They want a mixed system where FPTP is retained for the House of Assembly.

Zanu (PF) is unlikely to move away from FPTP which has assured them of victory throughout their 30 years of rule, despite the fact that their victories over the past decade have been strongly disputed, thus denying them legitimacy. Zanu (PF)s triumph at the polls have since 2000 been characterized by violence and intimidation and left hundreds dead and thousands injured and tortured. Thousands more have been displaced.

South Africa, which adopted proportional representation (or PR) from the beginning has fared well and done much better, particularly in including women in the cut throat business of politics. Some analysts believe both Zanu (PF) and the MDC are avoiding ranking members according to seniority because of squabbles among the ranks. Weeks before the South African parliamentary polls last year, the African National Congress published a 200-member list which ranked ANC members by seniority from the president downwards.

Because the ANC polled 69 percent of the vote nationally, a similar percentage of those on the list then got into parliament. The SA parliament is the only parliament with a 40 percent female representation, achieved through a deliberate policy to achieve gender equality. Zimbabwes House of Assembly has only managed to bring in 14 percent womens representation in an expanded House and a 33 percent representation in the 60-member senate. In cabinet, the engine-room of government, the figure is even lower. – Article first published on Reporting Transitional Zimbabwe website, A MISA-Zimbabwe initiative. Reproduced with permission.

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