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Howard and Downer: very loud on democracy in the Middle East, very silent on democracy in Zimbabwe.

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Kevin Rudd MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security 29 March 2005


John Howard and Alexander Downer have been enthusiastic in their championing of the growth of democracy in the Middle East over the last month but they have been silent on the decline of democracy in Zimbabwe - which is on the eve of fresh parliamentary elections.

We have heard nothing whatsoever from the Howard Government on the challenges to the democratic process in Zimbabwe posed by Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF regime. For example:

• What initiatives has Mr Howard taken with his Commonwealth Troika partners of South Africa and Nigeria in the lead up to the Zimbabwean elections?

• What proposals have Mr Howard and Mr Downer put to the SADC to ensure the effective international monitoring of these elections?

• What initiatives has the Howard Government put forward through the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva where Australia resumed its seat only last year?

Labor is concerned that the elections have already been compromised by: the harassment and intimidation of opposition supporters; restrictions on the democratic rights of freedom of speech, assembly and association; restrictions on media reporting of the elections; restrictions on foreign observers; and irregularities in the voter registration process.

Three years ago the Commonwealth Observer Group sent to monitor the Zimbabwe elections concluded that they were not a free and fair representation of the will of the Zimbabwe people.

At this stage there is precious little ground for assuming that these elections will be any different.

If John Howard wants to portray himself as an international statesman, he should make every effort to focus the international community’s attention on bringing about sustainable political change within Zimbabwe.

Mr Howard and Mr Downer seem quite content for Zimbabwe to simply disappear from the pages of the international press as the last vestiges of Zimbabwean democracy start to fade away.


Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823