Since a transitional government was formed in Zimbabwe two and a half years ago to end its bitter, debilitating political crisis, hopes have been high that open elections could one day be held to return the Southern African nation to democracy, peace and stability. While reforms have been made to halt the country's notorious hyper-inflation and steady its economy, the political and electoral changes needed to conduct free, fair, and non-violent elections have not occurred. The political "roadmap" drawn up earlier this year to lead Zimbabwe toward a true democracy remains just that: a plan on paper, not an actual journey.
The people of Zimbabwe deserve free, fair and peaceful elections, but the conditions do not yet exist for this to happen. A number of basic reforms must be in place before another round of elections can go forward. These include constitutional reform, an update of the voters roll and a re-drawing of constituency boundaries. Police and others in the security sector must uphold the law in an objective, nonpartisan manner to ensure that voters aren't intimidated when going to the polls. They are a critical part of the state infrastructure that must honor, protect and respect the will of the people as expressed in credible future elections. Finally, election monitors must be allowed to observe the voting for an independent assessment of its fairness.
The United States and the rest of the international community are prepared to assist the Zimbabwean people in implementing reforms and are watching closely to see whether the needed changes are forthcoming, before credible elections can be planned, much less conducted.