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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Vote chaos plunges Zimbabwe back into crisis – Analysis
August 01, 2013
disputed election has plunged the country back into a deep political
crisis and could open the way for decades more of autocratic rule.
“At least it was peaceful” was the meek assessment of
one Harare-based diplomat after Wednesday’s presidential poll.
Even before the final
votes had been counted, Robert Mugabe’s allies claimed a comprehensive
victory that would extend his 33-year rule. The 89-year-old has
seemingly performed a political miracle, winning by a landslide
despite years of crippling unemployment that forced millions to
The African Union quickly
declared the vote free and fair, dismissing widespread allegations
of rigging. But independent observers said as many as one million
people were prevented from voting in opposition urban strongholds,
while Mugabe’s support was inflated by repeat and “ghost”
voters. In the run-up to the vote, state media and the security
services appeared to be an extension of Mugabe’s campaign
rival Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), cried foul, describing the vote as “a sham”.
But the scale of the supposed rout left many MDC members in a state
of stupor. “I’m totally shocked at how badly they’ve
rigged it,” said MDC stalwart Roy Bennett.
Many in the MDC had hoped
a vast turnout would make rigging impossible, and Mugabe, who has
been in an uneasy power-sharing agreement with Tsvangirai, would
be made to step aside by sheer force of opposition. Instead the
MDC is left fighting for its own political life. “If indeed
they have lost then they have to rebrand and have leadership renewal.
They might start asking if they should continue to have Tsvangirai
as leader,” said Dumisani Nkomo, a political analyst based
It may yet get worse
for the party. “It’s going to be very difficult for
the MDC to make a comeback with fewer members in parliament,”
said Shakespeare Hamauswa, a political scientist at the University
Official results may
give Mugabe’s Zanu-PF a two-thirds majority in parliament.
That would be enough to rewrite a new constitution overwhelmingly
approved by Zimbabweans in March, which introduced term limits and
curbs on presidential powers. Control of the presidency and parliament
would then give Mugabe’s party breathing room to choose a
Throughout his rule,
Mugabe has steadfastly refused to name who should succeed him. But
behind the scenes there is fierce jockeying within Zanu-PF’s
rival camps, one led by Vice President Joice Mujuru and the other
by hardline Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. If Mugabe is declared
winner, one of his first tasks will be to name a vice president,
offering a hint of who might win that tussle.
Tsvangirai may have little
option but to stand by and watch. Legal efforts to annul the vote
are likely to run into a wall since the courts are packed with Mugabe’s
acolytes. Firebrands who have hit out at the vote talk of filling
Harare’s streets with protesters and staging an “African
Spring”, but even calls for a campaign of passive resistance
seem a tough ask. “There needs to be resistance against this
theft and the people of Zimbabwe need to speak out strongly,”
said the MDC’s Bennett.
about people completely shutting the country down don’t pay
any bills, don’t attend work, just bring the country to a
standstill,” said the veteran opposition leader.
Cynics point to the result
of similar demonstrations in 2008, which were quickly and brutally
crushed, and the fact that Zimbabweans live from day-to-day, skipping
work is not an option.
The MDC will seek some
recourse from neighbours. SADC, the southern Africa regional bloc
that has spent much of the last decade trying to stabilise Zimbabwe,
and which observed the vote, is widely expected to give the election
a pass when it reports on Friday. Botswana’s assertion that
the vote “fell short of best practice” is unlikely to
be replicated by the bloc as a whole. SADC’s dominant power
South Africa has long shied away from publically criticising Mugabe.
Fearing another wave
of Zimbabweans across its border, Pretoria may seek to extend the
power-sharing government between Tsvangirai and Mugabe which while
uneasy, at least put the political crisis on ice for four years.
After five long years
of talks, agreements, power-sharing, constitution-writing and elections,
Zimbabwe may be back where it started, with Mugabe firmly in the
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