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Pre-Election Detectors: ZANU PF’s attempt to re-claim political
in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA
April 15, 2013
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question is why do political parties and governments manipulate
elections. This paper offers a more nuanced investigation of why
and under what circumstances do authoritarian regimes decide to
adopt and drop certain political strategies of manipulating elections.
In order to answer this question the article investigates the political
strategies at the centre of the Zimbabwe African National Union
Patriotic Front (Zanu PF)’s attempt to win the next harmonised
polls and re-establish its hegemony.2 Other commentators reduce
the Zanu PF electoral strategies to the use of physical violence
against opposition supporters conceptualised as the ‘margin
of terror’. Whilst I agree that state sponsored violence is
endemic in Zimbabwe, I argue that Zanu PF is embarking on a more
sophisticated and multi-pronged approach to cover its terror tactics
in order to re-gain political legitimacy. The reign of terror
unleashed by Zanu PF in the run-up to the June 27, 2008 ‘election’
undermined the party’s legitimacy in the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU) and internationally.
Hence, physical violence in 2013 will not be as blatant and as extreme
as in the previous June 27, 2008 ‘election’. Zanu PF
is aware that naked physical violence will not be accepted in SADC
and yet at the same time a relatively free and fair election might
undermine its electoral chances. Pitied between a rock and a hard
place, what strategies can Zanu PF use in the next harmonised election?
The party prefers a psychological warfare premised on manipulating
the fear inculcated in communities over years among other strategies.
These include partisan registration of voters, ideologically appealing
to popular groups; state financed patronage, control of state media
and targeted persecution (devoid of physical harm) against civil
society leaders and opposition supporters. Whether these political
strategies will work in favour of Zanu PF only the next election
March 29 election and the June 27 ‘election’ held in
2008 reflect ‘a tale of two elections’ (Tendi and Alexander
2008) with a major effect on the tenor of national politics. In
the pre-election period the environment was relatively peaceful,
opposition supporters were allowed to campaign freely in party regalia,
observers operated without much hindrance, the state media aired
campaign messages for the opposition, few cases of violence were
reported and on the polling day the results were posted outside
the respective polling stations for all to see. Consequently, the
29th of March parliamentary election was won by the Movement for
Democratic Change led by Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai. However,
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) headed by Justice Chiweshe,
took six weeks to officially announce the winner amid speculation
that Zanu PF was inflating the figures of
Mr Mugabe and
deflating those of Mr Tsvangirai. When the results
were finally announced Morgan Tsvangirai had 47.9% of the vote and
Mugabe trailed by 43.2%. According to the Zimbabwe Electoral
Act a candidate requires 50% plus one vote to be President.
This meant that Zimbabwe had to go for a run-off Presidential election.
This also meant that Zanu PF had failed to claim victory through
inflating the numbers beyond the 50%+one vote (the margin of error)
without resorting to the old tactic of terror. As a result Zanu
PF unleashed extreme terror characterised by abductions of opposition
supporters, torture, arbitrarily arrests, the opposition was barred
from campaigning and the state radio became blatantly partisan.
About 200 opposition supporters were killed in the run-up to the
election, 200,000 were displaced and many went missing. President
Mugabe was clear that the ‘pen would not defeat the gun’.
As a result of the escalating physical violence the MDC leader,
Morgan Richard Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off on 22 June 2008.
President Mugabe contested alone and was declared President on 29
June 2008 with 85% of the vote before he rushed off to the African
Union summit in Egypt.
story is that even though President Mugabe was sworn in as President
of Zimbabwe, he failed to win political legitimacy nationally but
more importantly in the region and internationally. As Badza (2009)
chronicles, the SADC election observer mission’s report concluded
that the June 27 election did not reflect the will of the people
of Zimbabwe. The then SADC chairperson, the late President of Zambia,
Levy Mwanawasa, had appealed to Zimbabwe to postpone the election
in order to avert a ‘regional disaster’. The SADC Troika
that included King Mswati, a long-time ally of President Mugabe
had criticised the electoral environment and concluded that the
environment would ‘undermine the credibility and legitimacy
of its outcome’. President Jacob Zuma castigated the run-off
as ‘no longer a solution’. On a continental level, the
then Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Ping, noted
that state sponsored violence was of ‘grave concern to the
African Union’. More extreme was Botswana that openly campaigned
for Zimbabwe to be expelled from SADC and the AU. From my conversations
with government officials from Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique
Tanzania and South Africa in the past 5 months my proposition is
that the views of the SADC leaders are not likely to change if Zimbabwe’s
election becomes a replica of the June 27, 2008 election. President
Mugabe seems aware of this view as he has argued before that the
government was formed to end the violence and not to deal with
substantive democratic reforms.
Because of international
pressure, President Mugabe’s lack of political legitimacy
and the ‘MDC dominated Parliament which would make it difficult
for Mugabe to govern’ (discussions with Malawi government
minister who attended SADC meetings in 2008) the regional body urged
President Mugabe to form an inclusive government with the MDCs and
appointed President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to supervise the
process. After much political bickering the inclusive government
was only formed on 13 February 2009. Robert Mugabe continued as
President and Morgan Tsvangirai was appointed as Prime Minister
whereas Arthur Mutambara of the smaller MDC faction was appointed
the Deputy Prime Minister. The inclusive government was tasked to
stabilise the economy and to institute democratic reforms that would
ensure the holding of a free and fair election to avoid a regression
into the authoritarian and repressive politics of June 27 2008.
See Raftopolous (2012) for progress on the inclusive government.
My point is that the inevitable end of this political interregnum
is an election. One of the Principals elucidated:
point to the fact that Zimbabwe will have an election in 2013. President
Mugabe has been consistently calling for an election. Recently,
at a meeting with civil society organisations, Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai indicated that elections will be held in July 2013. President
Mugabe’s birthday interview confirms Mr Tsvangirai’s
views. He said, ‘…we will have elections before the
UNWTO to be held in Zimbabwe in August 2013’. Professor Welshman
Ncube the leader of the other MDC was pessimistic that elections
will be held in July but said that there was ‘no way Zimbabwe
can go beyond September 2013 without an election because that will
create a constitutional crisis. Even SADC will not have power to
make us override our constitution’ (pers.comm, January 2013).
According to the constitution the current government expires on
29 June 2012, as it run concurrently with the term of office of
the President. However, the holding of elections will depend on
the availability of financial resources and political will. What
political strategies will Zanu PF use in the next election? Let
us first provide an analytical hedging based on the strategies Zanu
PF has used in the past?
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in Zimbabwe fact
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