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Analysis: Zimbabwe Waits

Council on Foreign Relations

March 31, 2008
Author: Stephanie Hanson

An uneasy quiet has followed Zimbabwe’s March 29 elections. The country’s electoral commission has yet to announce results from the presidential poll and gave scant figures from the parliamentary elections as well. The opposition MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, claims unofficial tallies show him with twice as much support (SA Independent) as President Robert Mugabe. Initial official results from the parliamentary election show a small number of the seats up for grabs were equally split (BBC) between the MDC and Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF. As the country waits in anticipation of presidential results, Zimbabweans and international observers worry that Mugabe supporters could rig the outcome and wonder what the vote might mean for the country’s future.

Informal results and news reports indicate that the opposition gained ground in the presidential vote in rural areas traditionally loyal to Mugabe. Results—posted at individual polling stations for the first time—quickly circulated (WashPost) throughout the country the day following the election. As local observers learned of the numbers, many proclaimed the vote a “tsunami for MDC” (NYT). Yet the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, an international nongovernmental organization, says sources within the electoral commission indicate Mugabe will claim victory, despite polling only 20 percent of the vote.

The election bears a resemblance to Zimbabwe’s 2002 polls, after which the opposition also claimed early victory. Amid widespread reports of vote rigging, Mugabe was pronounced the election’s winner with 52 percent of the vote. Yet unlike in 2002, experts say the posting of results by precinct has given this election some measure of transparency.

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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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