Elections, a security threat
By Farai Tinashe Munoriarwa
Elections since time and memorial have been an integral part of the institutions of democracy and statehood, as they represent freedom of choice, expression and will. In theory and ideally elections present a façade of being peaceful and harmonious then again in practice that may not be the case.
Elections entail a three tier process, pre-elections, elections and post-elections. Simply put elections are a competition for legitimate power with numerous political parties involved. Human nature in a competitive environment creates turmoil and uproar as with any competition there has to be a winner and a loser.
Nonetheless, elections essentially should present non-violent competition allowing the electorate to express their civil liberties.
The electoral process presents various vulnerabilities in the form of security threats both to the state and people. These threats manifest themselves in the three tier process affecting critical infrastructure which in the latter affect individuals and the day to day administration and management of governance within the state.
Evidently, elections have become a security threat across the globe as seen with the unrest that occurred in the USA after Trump won the elections in December 2016, the recent elections in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The numerous shutdowns in South Africa present the pre-election disruption of the normal modus operandi of the country. Violence and elections have become synonymous with each other creating a coexisting relationship. This unpleasant relationship has coined the term electoral violence which is a member of the political violence family.
There are numerous variables that are in place that contribute to one of the most important, if not the most important institutions of democracy being a security threat. One of the dimensions that seems to exist is the fact that violence during the fundamental process of elections is used to influence behavior by changing the hearts and minds of the electorate which can affect the overall outcome elections.
The last tier of the election process presents violence a way of distorting the results and dissatisfaction of the results announced which is relatedly common in the world. These actions become a threat as in most cases they are violent and cause harm to the state and its citizens. Elections present the greatest threat to human security mainly personal, political, health and economic security.
In the midst of the electoral process, is the variable of a state’s economy which is essential to the electorate as all political party manifestos speak on economic growth. Currently, were globally we have moved past an economic recession into a depression in which most state economies are seeing very little economic growth if any at all.
Little to no economic growth during an election year can possess risks especially if there is a high unemployment rate within the state. Unemployment creates desperation amongst society and fuels the appetite to provide for oneself by any means necessary which lead to the constant perpetuation of violence which can be sponsored by a political party to alter the behavior of the electorate and candidates.
Correspondingly, unemployment has led to the easier recruitment for terrorist organization exploiting the desperation and willingness of an unemployed person to make ends meet. This clouds individual moral compass which later can affect a group leading to the creation of resentment towards the nation-state. Like any other risk there are certain triggers and expressions that should be monitored and countered in order to prevent unwarranted mayhem. Just like abuse the threat may not be physical but it may be verbal affecting the mental aspects of a human’s security, lest we forget that word of mouth can be a powerful tool to disseminate information.
Elections as a security threat can be countered and reprimanded throughout the three tier process. In an ideal world trust and transparency from all stakeholders involved in the election process can be a counter measure to any risk and harm.
Like in any other competition, the rules of engagement have to be clear in order to protect the integrity and validity of the elections. The greatest counter measure is the announcement of result within the specified timeline with all stakeholder present this counters the risk of violence post elections creating a harmonious aftermath to an event that is full of mixed feelings.
Countering of risk towards human and state security has to involve the necessary apparatus in the form of the security forces that should be equally ready to man the task at hand.