Zim headed for another run-off?


HARARE – Zimbabwe is headed for another and “definite” hung parliament as well as presidential election run-off, as support for the country’s two main parties and political principals remains evenly balanced.

A new opinion poll on Zimbabwe shows President Robert Mugabe apparently closing the gap on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the man who beat him in the 2008 March elections.

No party will secure the presidency without going for second round voting, according to the poll.
Local think tank, Mass Public Opinion Institute conducted the fieldwork for the poll commissioned by Afrobarometer.

Results of the poll show a resurgent Zanu PF on 32 percent from 10 percent. The MDC, no longer the most popular party in the country, dropped from 38 to 31 percent.

The survey of about 2 400 Zimbabweans of voting age, conducted from July 16 to 30, 2012 and released on Friday, shows that 22 percent refused to express a party preference.

A sample of 2 400 was selected using a stratified, multistage, area design and respondents were asked who they would vote for if they had to make a decision right then.

“According to these overt responses, the two major parties are in a statistical dead heat: Zanu PF would garner 32 percent of the vote and MDC would receive 31 percent,” the poll shows.

“A survey with 2 400 cases contains a margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percentage points.
Therefore, actual voting intentions lie somewhere within a range of 30-34 percent for Zanu PF and 29-33 percent for MDC. As a result, either party could have been slightly ahead and, if any election had been held in July 2012, the outcome would have been too close to call. And a second-round run-off presidential election would have been necessary.”

The collapse is the most dramatic of the MDC in its 13 years in existence.

The poll confirms results of a US pollster Freedom House’s June opinion poll which again confirmed that the MDC is facing a rough ride in the fragile coalition government and its leader seems to have been outwitted by his 88-year-old foe, a cunning political veteran who has used a grim mix of political savvy, charm, intimidation and violence to cripple political opposition.

With a call for a national election on the cards as soon as March 2013, Tsvangirai and his MDC face a tough election battle against Zanu PF.

The earlier controversial Freedom House poll, entitled “Political Change and New Politics in Zimbabwe” issued on August 20, 2012 indicated that if a presidential election were held in June, Mugabe, would garner 31 percent of the votes as compared to 19 percent for Tsvangirai.

This result represented a profound reversal of fortunes for both parties. It was met by a prompt and carefully-worded response from MDC which asserted that a cursory look at the huge figure of people who did not want to express themselves freely, it can be concluded that they do not want Zanu PF.

An estimated 47 percent refused to express a party preference in that poll.

The latest Afrobarometer survey again shows that the preferences of the electorate are evenly split between the two main political parties.

The Afrobarometer — a collaborative survey research project conducted by a network of social scientists from more than 30 African countries — also confirms that Zimbabwe possesses a two-party system.

“No minor political party, including MDC-Ncube, Zapu or Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn, can boast more than one percent support from the electorate,” the pollster says. “But these parties are relevant to political outcomes in the event of an extremely close election, when they might hold a balance of power.”

The survey results show that peak levels of expressed support for MDC were probably inflated by a mood of euphoria or at least relief following the signing of a power-sharing agreement in September 2008 and the inauguration of a coalition government in February 2009.

“The MDC faced high popular expectations in 2009 of what could be achieved by the IG (Inclusive Government), hopes that had certainly dissipated by mid-2012,” the poll says.

“Second, earlier samples did not always penetrate land resettlement schemes and large-scale commercial farms because, for security reasons, these areas were deemed political ‘no-go’ zones. By the time of 2012 surveys, this sampling bias was corrected. Nevertheless, past surveys may have overestimated MDC support and underestimated Zanu PF support, especially among persons who had benefited from fast-track land redistribution.

“We continue (to) wonder, however, whether political fear is infecting results.”

The survey concluded that Zimbabwean voters make voting choices on the basis of both the positive achievements of the inclusive government and the negative sanctions of intimidation and violence.

“While Zanu PF seems to derive more benefit from recent government performance than it probably deserves, MDC seems to derive less,” the survey says.

“One reason may be that the former has paid more attention to grassroots organisation and mass communications than the latter. While Zanu PF has invested resources to rebuild its party machine and mobilise its political base, MDC has relied too heavily on a strategy of expecting political credit for improved service delivery.”

The survey says no party has a decisive edge in forthcoming watershed poll.

“Any future election in Zimbabwe remains too close to call,” Afrobarometer says.

“No political party in Zimbabwe can afford to be complacent about an easy electoral victory. The Afrobarometer survey of popular voting intentions in July 2012 strongly suggests that, at present, neither Zanu PF nor MDC could secure the presidency without a second-round run-off election.”

Party secretary-general Tendai Biti said the major lesson was that the MDC needed to reconnect with its mass base and needs to carry out protracted programmes of mobilisation, advocacy, education, recruitment and delivery.

“This is not contestable,” Biti said.

“We accept fully the message that the MDC does not have a God-given right to govern and that the MDC by action has to wake up and work for the support of Zimbabweans. The MDC’s biggest strength is its capacity to listen, learn from its mistakes, pick itself from the floor and move forward.”

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo gloated about the survey results, and sledged what he termed lacklustre MDC performance in government.

“The MDC has been in government, they have exposed themselves. They have shown how incapable they are to run government, to run ministries and so on and so on,” Gumbo said.

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