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  • 2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles

  • What happened in the Presidential Election?
    States in Transition Observatory, Idasa

    May 12, 2008

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    When the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission finally announced the results of the Presidential election, quite apart from the relief that they were finally announced, there were two predominant reactions. The first was a total lack of surprise that Morgan Tsvangirai had beaten Robert Mugabe: all the indications from every source, as well as the evident disbelief of Zanu PF and the subsequent shenanigans of ZEC, were that this would be the case. The second reaction was the lack of surprise that ZEC had not announced Morgan Tsvangirai as the outright winner with an absolute majority.

    It was clear to all concerned that the results were known in detail by Monday, 31 March, and there have been a number of "leaks" to this effect, all suggesting that Tsvangirai won outright. If the Electoral Act had been followed to the letter, then Morgan Tsvangirai would have been sworn in as President of Zimbabwe, and Robert Mugabe would have had no further recourse except by election petition. So, it was clear to all that a run off result had to be engineered, and thence followed the farce of the recount, a wholly unlawful recount according to the Electoral Act.

    It was also clear to all that there had to be a delay in order for a very shocked Zanu PF to re-organise and decide what to do. Zanu PF had to prepare for a run off as well as provide the grounds for a run off. After a short hiatus, the strategy emerged, and a well-worn strategy it was, quite apart from the delay in announcing results. (We will return to the results later).

    The first move was to re-invent the "land" gambit, and, after announcing that white farmers were rushing back to claim their farms, the "people" began to invade the remaining 400 farms. By all accounts, these invasions have been more violent and intimidatory than those between 2000 and 2005, even worse than 2000 or 2002. This was the public strategy, but it was accompanied by an even more sinister strategy, one that had also worked in 2000 and 2002, and this was the unleashing of the militia, under military supervision - but more blatant military supervision than has been the case previously. As in 2002, the violence had the purpose of retribution for voting against Zanu PF, for, as in 2002, it was evident, but more so in 2008, that rural people had voted against Zanu PF. But in 2008, it also has the purpose of driving out any vestige of the MDC form the rural areas, and obviously handicapping the MDC in any preparations for a run off.

    Whilst all this was going on, there was still the problem of engineering a re-run, and this was much more problematic for the results published by ZEC for the Senate, and the House of Assembly seemed valid and reliable according to a number of independent estimates, including the MDC. ZEC did not and has not announced the Local Government results, but Justice Chiweshe has claimed that there is no need to as they were already published at the Ward command centres. As an aside, this is highly contradictory given that ZEC felt the need to publish all other results, and to "scrupulously" ensure that the results of the Senate, the House of Assembly, and the Presidency were correct.

    Thus, a high old farce ensued. The House of Assembly results were announced over days and days, and eventually it emerged that MDC Tsvangirai had a majority, and that the opposition had an absolute, but not a constitution changing, majority. However, it was majority enough to suggest that the former opposition would now become the government, or there would be severe problems for Robert Mugabe, if he won the presidential poll outright, and Zanu PF in governing as a minority government. They would be unable to pass a Bill or even obtain the finance necessary to govern without the total cooperation of the "opposition." The farce then continued with the tedious announcement of the Senate results, and it emerged that the two groups, Zanu PF and the MDC's, were even.

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