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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
At noon on August
1st, just a few hours after the last votes
were cast in Zimbabwe’s elections, Morgan Tsvangirai effectively
conceded defeat. “It is a sham election that does not reflect
the will of the people,” he said. By the day’s end,
with Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF winning the bulk of the seats
declared so far, it seemed likely that Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) had been trounced. The scale of the
lead suggests Mr Mugabe may also have claimed at least 50% of the
votes in the presidential contest against Mr Tsvangirai and two
fringe candidates. A majority would extend his 33-year rule as Zimbabwe’s
If Mr Mugabe
indeed proves to be the outright winner, he will owe his victory
to a clever manipulation of the list of those permitted to vote.
An analysis of the electoral roll (as it stood on June 19th) by
the Zimbabwe Election
Support Network (ZESN), a non-partisan body, showed that city
dwellers, who are more likely to tick the MDC box, were not nearly
as well represented as rural folk. ZESN reckons that 68% of urban
adults made it onto the list compared with close to 100% of voting-age
people in the countryside. Up to 1m urban voters (out of an electorate
of around 6m) had “systemically” been denied the chance
to register, it concluded
The urban voters who
had managed to register faced other barriers on election day. ZESN
found that urban voters were more than twice as likely to be turned
away from polling stations for administrative reasons.
The results have left
MDC supporters in shock. Some of its leading figures have lost their
seats. Yet the party went into the election campaign knowing that
the voters’ roll (as well as the broadcast media) would be
biased against it. Mr Mugabe had decreed a snap election that left
little time for voter registration, analysis of the voters’
list, or a correction of any irregularities. The MDC contested the
elections anyway. Even on election day its leaders still seemed
confident that disgust with Mr Mugabe’s often violent rule
was sufficient to level the playing field.
Did they miscalculate?
A final electoral roll was produced two days before polling day
and then only in hard copy. Once it is analysed it may prove to
have been tilted more in Zanu-PF’s favour than had seemed
possible. But if Mr Mugabe’s party has indeed won handsomely,
such a victory could not be explained by rigging alone. Perhaps
there was a bedrock of support for it that was more solid than its
opponents had guessed. Perhaps the results reflect a greater degree
of disenchantment with the MDC than many had suspected. The party’s
failure to make a mark in an uneasy four-year coalition with Zanu-PF
robbed it of a strong platform to campaign on.
A faint hope for the
MDC is that election observers will say the vote was not credible.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional body,
is due to give its judgment on August 2nd. But a subcommittee of
its mission has already said the poll was conducted in line with
SADC principles. It seems unlikely the overall judgment will be
much different. The head of the African Union mission to the elections,
Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, has likewise said
the elections were credible based on his personal observation. The
sense is that the generally peaceful conduct of the election will
persuade observers to accept the result. It is an open question
whether everyone in Zimbabwe will do likewise.
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