Zimbabwean campuses come alive during election periods. Political student activists normally belong to one of the two main political factions: the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) or the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They move around campus putting up posters of their candidates (or tearing down the other party’s posters) and distributing T-shirts that have their party’s logo. At times, they hold rallies where there is lot of singing of political songs and dancing. In some cases, political extremists employ abusive language and violence to threaten members the other party.
On the day of an election, the tension is high and uncertainty is rife. People go out and join the long winding queues of fellow voters patiently waiting their turn to cast their ballot. Very few, if any lessons are conducted during the election period. Some schools have had to shut down because an election period was characterized by violence of varying degrees.
I was very amazed, therefore, by how peaceful the US midterm election day was. It was just like another ordinary day. Those who wanted to vote went out and voted during the breaks between classes. There were no rallies, no political enthusiasts chanting slogans and no political violence reported on campus. And other than receiving an email that encouraged everyone eligible to vote to do so, I was left to go about my business the way I would have the day before.
I also marveled at how little time it took for the results to come out. Some student political parties got together at dinner time to celebrate their victory or mourn their loss. In Zimbabwe, election results can take weeks to come out. When they finally do, everyone is way past the election-euphoria stage in which you are expectant and excited to see the outcome of your vote.
If the midterm election period is at all representative of presidential elections, then the difference between America and Zimbabwe is infinite. Amongst other things, I have come to realize that there is a huge gap that we need to bridge between Zimbabwe and good electoral policies.