Election flaws unlikely to unseat Mugabe

HARARE - The recent elections in Zimbabwe were always likely to be problematic.

Despite the hope of former South African president Thabo Mbeki in 2007 that his mediation efforts would lead to elections “conducted in a manner that will make it impossible for any honest person in Zimbabwe to question the legitimacy of their outcomes,” this was the case neither in the 2008 nor the 2013 elections.

In the run up to the latest elections there were several issues that militated against a generally acceptable outcome.

These ranged from Zanu PF’s persistent obstruction and widely reported problems around voters registration and the voters’ roll, to the persistent, though reduced, tensions over the sanctions conditions imposed on the Mugabe regime by the West since the early 2000s.

A combination of Zanu PF’s ruthlessness in dealing with opposition parties, the allure of employment opportunities, the shrinking social base of the opposition and the limits of Southern African Development Community’s response to a recalcitrant Mugabe regime, all constrained threats from the now factionalised Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of mass action against yet another stolen election.

Thus the results of the recent elections were only a surprise to the extent that Zanu PF’s “victory” was so overwhelming.

In the March 2008 election Mugabe received 45 percent of the presidential vote whilst his party won 99 parliamentary seats, while in the same election Morgan Tsvangirai received 48 percent of the presidential vote and his party 100 seats.

In 2013 Mugabe’s share of the presidential vote leaped to 61 percent while that of Tsvangirai plunged to 33 percent, with their parties receiving 159 and 49 parliamentary seats respectively.

How did this happen? It is still too early to make a thorough assessment of the 2013 elections.

However, some general remarks can be proffered. Firstly there is little doubt that Zanu PF’s deliberate obstruction in fully implementing the reform measures, in particular changes to the security sector, made it difficult for the MDCs to fully exploit any political spaces that may have opened up under such reforms.

But it cannot be denied that the performance of the MDCs left much to be desired, and their lack of political

co-ordination allowed Mugabe to weaken their effectiveness and exploit the differences between the two factions.

The legacy of the violence of 2008 also appears to have played a role.

While the run up was peaceful this time around, memories of violence combined with verbal threats could have been sufficient to intimidate voters into not voting for the opposition this year.

Zanu’s coercive power over who has access to council flats and vending stands could also have influenced voting.

Mugabe’s power base remains strong.

Having said all that, it is also clear that Mugabe and his party retain a substantial social base.

Even when Mugabe and Zanu PF lost the March 2008 elections, as the figures above show, the percentage differences were small, though of major significance.

Moreover the shape of Zimbabwe’s political economy has changed substantially in the 2000s since the major transformation on the land. The deconstruction of former white-owned, large-scale commercial farms and their replacement by a preponderance of small farm holders has radically changed the social and political relations in these areas.

The new forms in which Zanu PF and the State have penetrated these new social relations have affected the forms of Zanu PF dominance in these areas. The rapid expansion of small-scale, “informal” mining companies has also brought a larger number of workers into the fold of Zanu PF’s accumulation and patronage network.

When these factors are combined with the greater political cohesion of Mugabe’s party since the divisions that marked its campaign in 2008 — and the resonance of its messaging around empowerment and
indigenisation particularly amongst the youth, it is apparent that there are multiple reasons for the political resurgence of Mugabe and his party.

The divisions that have emerged over the “freeness and fairness” of this election at national and international levels have, once again, drawn a line between African and Western government responses to the Mugabe regime.

This is a terrain that Mugabe has exploited effectively in the past and will no doubt continue to do so.

However the Sadc is desperate to draw a line under the longstanding Zimbabwe problem and in its pursuit of stability in the regional and protection of national sovereignty, it has opted for a minimally acceptable election in which the absence of large-scale violence appears to have been the most important litmus test for a credible ballot.

Tsvangirai and his party have challenged the results of the elections, calling it a “sham”.

It is highly unlikely that a legal challenge will alter the results, and there is little doubt that Mugabe and his party will move ahead for a further five years with little hindrance from Sadc.

It remains to be seen how soon the EU and the US will begin a full re-engagement with Mugabe.

Comments (7)

Gentleman if yoyu don't feed the area you want to fish you will not catch any fish,maybe one or two you can.But if you do feed I tell you will catch as many fish.This is what happened Cde R.G Mugabe did feed while former Pm Tsvangirai thought since he once feed them in 2008 he was going to catch the same fish in 2013.Sorry not knowing they had left and went where they are being fed every time by Zanu Pf not only on election daysThats how you lost votes people need to be fed everytime like what President R>G>Mugabe does.

Wekwatsambe Wasu - 15 August 2013

Whether it happens or not, the fact still remains Mugabe CHEATED and he knows it. This explains why he has already intimidated the Judges. All the same, he will remain illegitimate in the eyes of those who matter. Right inside him, Mugabe would love to be accepted by the Obamas of this world rather than the Obasanjos.

Johnson Tarumwa - 15 August 2013

What fishing this idiotic Zimbbwean is talking about? The judgement day is coming for theives stealing from the poor.

isaac - 15 August 2013

Mwari pindirai. Those of us who were born poor will die poorer. It is pathetic. i would rather be a pauper of a rich and happy country than a president of poor and disgrantled nation. just one day, and i guess that day is fast approaching, the dictator will be a gonna

Zingozi - 16 August 2013

@Johnson "we will remain illegitimate to those who matter...." who exactly are those people that matter so much in your eyes? @Zingozi... "those of you who were born poor will die poorer..." because of the low self-esteem that we seem to have in this country. A pauper is a pauper... Can we all stop feeling sorry for ourselves and stop blaming other people for our personal and national problems. Lets just all work together for the individual and collective benefit. I think Zim is doomed, not because of any political discourse (or lack of) but mostly due to the blame mentality that people like Morgan have instilled in the people.... Go home and tell your kids that the reason there is no food on the table is because of Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF, and neglect to tell them that it is because you refuse to work with what is there and make a plan for you and your family. No one man or one party is going to be the salvation of the country... Be the change you want to see... ZANU PF is not the reason people no longer respect human life on the roads, ZANU PF is not the reason you throw your empty Cascade bottle out of your car on your way home, ZANU PF is not the reason...

Bhola - 16 August 2013

munozvinetsa machinja c u 2018. nyatsoteerera unzwe utonga come monday

cde - 16 August 2013

munozvinetsa machinja c u 2018. nyatsoteerera unzwe utonga come monday

cde - 16 August 2013

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