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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
2013: By hook or by crook Mugabe is likely to win, get used to it
Tinhu, African Arguments
July 30, 2013
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on the African
Zimbabweans begin the process of voting
in their much-analysed general election. This latest chapter
in the country’s exhausting political scene follows the Constitutional
Court’s ruling that elections must be held by the end of this
month. In compliance with the ruling, President Robert Mugabe declared
31st July as the election date, enraging opposition and pro-democracy
forces who argued that more time was needed to ensure that political
and electoral reforms were undertaken.
In objection, the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) formations successfully lobbied the
regional body of Southern African Development Community (SADC),
which in turn encouraged President Mugabe to seek an extension via
the court. However, the same Constitutional Court upheld its initial
ruling, paving the way for rushed elections that President Mugabe’s
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) had always
sides, as usual, are represented by President Mugabe of Zanu-PF,
pitted against his Prime Minister in the coalition government, Morgan
Tsvangirai of the MDC. Captivating to some, and confusing to many,
this political fight between the two old rivals will not only mark
the end of the tumultuous transition period that had been hastily
put together in the aftermath of the bloody
elections of 2008, but is also certainly the last for these
two arch enemies.
In the coalition
government, Zanu-PF and the MDC have become polarized, each
viewing the other’s moves as an illegitimate way to consolidate
their position ahead of the elections. For example, the MDC has
accused ZanuPF of blocking the necessary political and electoral
reforms and also attempting to subvert the will of the people by
manipulating the electoral outcome even before the first ballot
has been cast. On the other hand, Zanu-PF has alleged that the MDC
has been attempting to unbalance local politics by bringing in external
interference in the form of SADC and western countries.
But it appears that President
Mugabe, once again, may have displayed his characteristic cunning
in out manoeuvring his opponents. For example, he has used his time
in the coalition government to implement repressive laws in order
to prevent other political parties from growing and directly challenging
his rule. In addition, voter registration throughout the country
has been done in a manner that is likely to ensure a favourable
outcome for Zanu-PF.
election is not about entrenching democracy, it is about Zanu-PF
retaining power. If Zimbabwe was ever to have a chance at having
a democratic election, that moment passed on the 15th March when
a flawed constitution was passed – a constitution that President
Mugabe has used to further undermine his coalition partners in the
Government of National Unity (GNU).
Much has been said about
this election being characterised by non-violence. There are two
reasons: Firstly, Zanu-PF is confident of winning a free and fair
Secondly, the violence
of 2008 created a crisis of legitimacy, which President Mugabe is
trying to avoid. In other words, the motivation for desisting from
violence has little to do with Zanu-PF’s goodwill, but it
is in the interest of President Mugabe’s party and is a threshold
for courting international legitimacy that was lacking following
the 2008 election.
However, in the event
of a runoff, with Zanu-PF’s grip on power being seriously
threatened, it would not be surprising if a political environment
reminiscent of 2008 emerged, where political violence characterised
the run-off vote. Indeed, the organisations that have been used
to perpetrate violence are still intact, and ready to go.
is the likely outcome?
are not an exact science. The margin of error in calculations is
large, so the best we can do is to proffer scenarios that are likely
to emerge at the end of the elections.
The first possible scenario
is that President Mugabe loses with the octogenarian leader conceding
and handing over power to his long-time adversary. For this scenario
to materialise, the MDC has to achieve a resounding victory one
which Zanu-PF cannot manipulate. However, with the only polls done
to date showing that Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s support has
never been greater than that of President Mugabe since 2012, this
scenario is unlikely. Earlier this year, Mugabe warned he would
fight like a ‘wounded beast’ to avoid defeat.
The second possible scenario
is that Tsvangirai wins with a small margin that still avoids a
run-off. In the event of such an outcome, the MDC is likely to be
forced to negotiate with Zanu-PF to create some kind of coalition
government or cede some power to Zanu-PF.
Zanu-PF is entrenched
in the power structures of the state, notably the civil service,
judiciary and security sector. Some sections of the security establishment
have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of abrogating
their ties with Zanu-PF and they could make it extremely difficult
for the MDC to govern if they choose to go it alone.
The third scenario is
that Zanu-PF retains political power either through a genuine win
or manipulation of the electoral outcome. To date, all the evidence
points to this scenario. Zanu-PF support has surged in the last
two years as indicated by the surveys done by Afrobarometer and
Freedom House more than a year ago. These show that President Mugabe’s
support has increased at the expense of that of the MDC. Though
these surveys are relatively old, and might not necessarily be accurate,
the danger of the existence of such surveys is that they can be
used by President Mugabe to justify a rigged electoral outcome.
In other words, it is not what the surveys are saying, but what
they can be used for.
In addition, in the event
of the opposition crying foul, Zanu-PF is likely to point to the
massive turn out in its primary elections. During internal elections
to choose parliamentary candidates, ZANU–PF supporters turned
to vote in their thousands as compared to a disappointing turnout
for the MDC. President Mugabe’s party has also had huge turnouts
at political rallies held in MDC strongholds such as Mutare, Bulawayo
and Chitungwiza. Amid allegations that a lot of the supporters are
simply being moved from one campaign rally to the other, what matters
to Zanu-PF is to use those images to justify a rigged result.
The unequal playing field
has also not worked in favour of the MDC. For example, the state
radio and TV station have remained firmly in the hands of President
Mugabe’s party being used for Zanu-PF propaganda and hate
speech against the MDC. On one occasion, when the MDC requested
having one of its rallies covered by state TV, the broadcaster requested
US$165 000 (it is not known if Zanu-PF is paying the same).
The opposition is also
entering this election divided. The MDC’s failure to reunite
with the smaller faction led by Welshman Ncube will see them lose
ground in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions where Welshman Ncube’s
party has been gaining support. The main MDC party is also itself
divided particularly in the Manicaland region, one of its strongholds,
where Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s attempts to impose Dawn/Mavambo/Kusile
candidate Simba Makoni has seen the Prime Minister being defied
by his senior officials in the region.
Most worrying has been
lack of interest by the international community, in particular,
US and EU and other Western countries, in this year’s election,
causing Tsvangirai to complain that his party has been let down
by the international community. The western Blind Eye has given
Zanu-PF wide latitude to manipulate the election if they so choose.
Also, the lack of interest in elections has seen the media’s
once hagiographic depiction of the MDC leader being replaced by
apathy and in some case even hostility (New York Times and Guardian
Nor have observer missions
from these countries been invited. The few international observer
missions invited by the government are from friendly countries such
as Russia, Cuba and China, and these are likely to endorse an electoral
outcome that favours President Mugabe. The United Nations has also
been banned, and the only international organisations that have
been invited are SADC and AU, and these have already expressed some
kind of satisfaction with electoral preparations that the MDC sees
Until recently, President
Jacob Zuma of South Africa was seen as the only international leader
who had the capability and leverage to press for a free and fair
election. However, this seemed not to be case after some sharp tongued
criticism of his handling of the ‘Zimbabwe crisis’ by
Zanu-PF officials. Indeed, by reining on his international relations
advisor Lindiwe Zulu, who was critical of the election preparations
in Zimbabwe, President Zuma has been seen as giving Zanu-PF the
licence to steal the election.
In the event of a disputed
result it is difficult to see how things would go in the MDC’s
favour. They would most likely appeal to the courts, but judging
by the composition of the judiciary and also historical rulings
by the Supreme Court (almost always favouring Zanu-PF); it’s
likely that the opposition would lose any appeal. Many of the judges
allegedly benefit from Zanu-PF patronage networks and also have
been on the sanctions list which they blame on the MDC.
There is a possibility
of protests arising if the election is perceived as stolen. This
again is an unlikely scenario, considering heavy handedness in which
the state security sector has handled protestors in previous elections.
Others have talked about the pressure from the international community,
which again is unlikely considering that the West’s political
class and media having shown virtually no interest in this year’s
The AU has basically
passed on a clean bill of health regarding electoral preparations,
with AU Chief Dr Dhlamini–Zuma, and SADC’s point man
appearing to have been neutered by Zanu-PF criticism. Out of desperation,
Tsvangirai has threatened to declare himself President, an extra
legal process that Zanu-PF will take as an opportunity to incarcerate
him. President Mugabe warned over the weekend that the MDC leader
would be arrested were such a development to occur.
It appears that all is
set for Zanu-PF to retain power. In Zimbabwean politics ‘winning
elections’ is not about making a case for your side, it is
about destroying the rival and his potential. And that’s what
Zanu-PF has systematically done since they entered into the coalition
government. While opposition parties and candidates were using all
kinds of strategic and tactical options to attract voters, Zanu-PF
was using all the tricks in its political playbook to ensure that
all those voters attracted either will not vote or if they do cast
their votes, they will not count.
hold on power is pretty tight and will not be easily broken. That’s
unfortunate, but it does not do anyone any favours to pretend otherwise.
Sometimes the hardest thing of all is to see what is really there.
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