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Zimbabwe - 2018 Elections

ZANU-PF was given a chance to rebuild the country it ruined. On 30 July 2018, the people of Zimbabwe went to vote in high numbers, aspiring for a new beginning. The 30 July 2018 Harmonised Elections in Zimbabwe were the first since the stepping down from power of the former president Robert Mugabe after 37 years in office. Many previous elections have been contentious and with reports of abuses, and so while the commitment to hold credible elections by the interim president was welcomed, a legacy of the past was a low level of trust in the democratic process and institutions, which permeated the electoral environment.

Emmerson Mnangagwa won Zimbabwes presidential election in a poll marred by violence and charges of fraud. The election commission gave Mnangagwa 50.8 percent of the vote, barely ahead of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who questioned the election commissions action. Chamisa called the results fake and promised a court challenge.

Connoisseurs of political shenanigans will note at least half a dozen ways in which the election was rigged. This was not the ridiculous rigging seen in fake elections such as Cambodia, so this election did not stink to high heaven, and there was an opportunity for those who wished to see a glass half full. But there are many ways in which a seemingly competitive election can be rigged to produce an intended outcome, and all were in full play in Zimbabwe. How could it be otherwise? Mugabe was gone, but ZANU-PF remained, and old habits of political trickery die hard. The only thing of note was that the margin of victory was so very narrow.

The election commission said turnout was high in most provinces but that a large number of votes had to be rejected. The number of registered voters, which had hovered around 3 million for years, rose to 5.6 million in 2018. The preliminary voter turnout figure was 75 percent, compared to 46 percent in previous polls.

The opposition leadership wrangles were evident on the ballot sheet - which featured more than one MDC candidate - and cost the MDC dearly in the end. Votes were split between MDC candidates in at least 28 constituencies. The Emerson Mnangagws led ZANU-PF wond at least 144 seats in the 210 member National Assembly, while the opposition MDC Alliance gained only 64 seats [2 other seats remained contested].

Zimbabwes 270-seat National Assembly comprises 210 directly elected members and 60 women chosen via proportional representation. It also has an 80-seat senate, with 60 members elected via proportional representation, 18 positions reserved for traditional leaders and two for candidates with disabilities. Zanu-PF previously controlled 196 seats in the assembly seats and 57 in the senate.

Zimbabwe held national elections on July 30, the first for the southern African nation since then-president Robert Mugabe was ousted from power by the military November 2017. President Emmerson Mnangagwa set July 30 as "the day of the election of the president, the election of members of the National Assembly and election of councillors." The 75-year Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe's vice president, will lead the long-ruling ZANU-PF party against the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa.

General elections were scheduled to be held in Zimbabwe on or before September 2018. The likelihood of the 2018 general elections taking place had been called into doubt by the 2017 Zimbabwean Coup. This was to be Zimbabwe's first election since gaining independence in 1980 without the 94-year-old Mugabe's name on the ballot.

By 2016 Zanu PF was sharply divided along factional lines with the Team Lacoste faction reportedly loyal to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while the rival G40 camp was said to be linked to First Lady Amai Mugabe (Grace). In Zimbabwe, there is a desire for change running across the country, with people to borrow from the Czech dissident Vaclav Havel being tired of being tired with the regime. Astute Zanu PF leaders such as Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa prepared, with the assistance of the European Union and Britain, for the post-Mugabe era. They planned the creation of a cosmopolitan authoritarianism that had been so successful in Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique and Angola. Zanu PF would inevitably manipulate elections and invoke violence, if necessary. Electoral fraud and violence lay at the heart of Zanu PFs electoral strategy. Zimbabwe is one of the few African countries whose post-independence politics was never characterised by a serious phase of coalition politics.

By 2015 the were reports that ruling party Zanu PF was plotting to suspend the watershed 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections from 2018 to 2021, in a bid to buy political time to allow the fractured former liberation movement to repair and recover from feared collapse owing to intensified factionalism. President Robert Mugabe's succession fight had already split the party between VP Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ousted predecessor Joice Mujuru.

Vice President Joice Mujuru was inculcated with ZANU-PF ideology, evidenced by her views on sanctions, she and her husband, General Solomon Mujuru, are business people who understand that a friendlier and more stable business environment requires political change. She also would like better relations with the US which she views as essential for Zimbabwe's economic growth. Because of her gender, Mujuru is an unlikely successor to Mugabe. But she occupies a prominent position in ZANU-PF and will likely be part of the power structure after Mugabe.

The estimated three million citizens living in the diaspora were denied the opportunity to vote in the historic elections as a result of a Constitutional Court ruling handed down on May 30.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe sarcastically said 30 June 2015 he would propose to American President Barack Obama if he travels to the White House, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across all 50 states a few days earlier. Mugabe, 91, is a staunch critic of same-sex marriage and this is not his first attack on homosexuality, which the Zimbabwean constitution prohibits. Mugabe, known for his fiercely anti-homosexuality stance, said he would "get down on my knee and ask [Obama's] hand", before he went on to condemn marriage equality.

"I've just concluded since President Obama endorses the same-sex marriage, advocates homosexual people and enjoys an attractive countenance thus if it becomes necessary , I shall travel to Washington DC, get down on my knee, and ask his hand," he said. "I can't understand how this people dare to defy Christ's explicit orders as our Lord prohibited mankind from sodomy," he added. He also claimed that Washington was being controlled by "perverted Satan-worshippers who insult the great American nation".

Mugabe lashed out 21 July 2017 against factions in his party angling to take over from him, saying they have no backing. The 93-year-old spoke at a rally in Lupane, about 600 kilometers southwest of Harare - as part of his effort to recruit young people to support him in next year's elections. It was the first time Mugabe spoke in public since returning from Singapore, where he went earlier this month to seek medical treatment for the third time this year. Mugabe did not mention his health in his speech. Instead, he attacked the opposition, accusing it of having nothing to offer Zimbabweans, and vowed he would win next years election.

He then turned to his own Zanu PF party. I want to say to those of us who are leaders, look at what the youths are able to do," Mugabe said. "No fights amongst them. They are united. Firmly united. They could not achieve this without unity. No backbiting. No factions and no desire, at the moment, to be successors when the president is still there. The youths are saying no. The women are saying no. The majority of the people are saying no. Who then is saying yes?

Jacob Mafume, the spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) which is led by former finance minister Tendai Biti, says Mugabe had stayed in power too long. Mafume says it is time for Mugabe to step down. There is no road without pothole in Zimbabwe, there is no water, there is no electricity," he said. "People are doing hours in queues trying to get the money that they deposited in those queues. There is no cash, the economy is not running, so he is doing wonders in the wrong direction. The man is failing dramatically, he is defining a new depth of failure."

Zimbabwes electoral body revealed 05 October 2017 that the number of political parties registered to contest the 2018 elections has more than doubled. The number of parties to contest the polls has jumped from 35 to 75 with many more expected to join the hotly contested race. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Rita Makarau told a Political Parties Forum that it was now up to the registered parties to make sure that their supporters were registered to vote next year. She added that to make sure that everyone was registered to vote, an envelope with post office markings reflecting the applicants address, a confirmation letter from the owner of a farm or resettlement office, an offer letter and a hospital bill, a clinic or hospital card can now be used as proof of residence.

Zimbabwe on November 24, 2017 saw its first new head of state in 37 years with the swearing in of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Robert Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has ever known, was forced to resign after 37 years in power. Mugabe, 93, had ruled Zimbabwe since the country won independence from Britain in 1980.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said the implementation of real, genuine, economic [and] political reforms" is key to meeting the needs of Zimbabweans. What we dont want is a manipulation by the government or by the ruling ZANU-PF party - holding rush elections, not taking into consideration a lot of the reform issues that the opposition wants to implement; also, not giving political space for Zimbabwe people for them to express what they want to see in a new government," he said.

The fragmented nature of the opposition contributed to its undoing. The strategy had been to contest the poll as an alliance of the MDC, its breakaway factions, and parties that for years rallied against the regime of Robert Mugabe. the opposition leadership wrangles were evident on the ballot sheet - which featured more than one MDC candidate - and cost the MDC dearly in the end. Votes were split between MDC candidates in at least 28 constituencies.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would have to produce solid evidence to substantiate its claim that the July 2018 election was rigged in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF. Manipulation of the results could well have happened. But ultimately, the undoing of the MDC was that it went into the election ill-prepared. The 548,889 votes for the MDC in the capital, Harare, compared to the 204,710 votes for ZANU-PF notwithstanding, the opposition had badly underestimated the ruling party.

ZANU-PF has dominated the political landscape since independence from Britain. Its strength starts at the grassroots level. In the villages of Mashonaland Central in the north of the country, the ruling party had 366,785 votes against the MDC's 97,097. The MDC's political strategy did not appear to take into account the traditional advantages of the ruling party. ZANU-PF knows how to mobilize people and support. It also has a past record of intimidation and violence.

Zimbabwe's political landscape opened up to international scrutiny for the first time in 16 years. The strong contingent of electoral observers helped to restore confidence in the electoral process. Incidents of violence, intimidation and irregularities were nowhere near as many as those reported during the Mugabe era.

Observers from the European Union said that while the election marked a clear break from the past, "a truly level playing field was not achieved." They noted several problems, including media bias, voter intimidation and lack of public trust in the electoral commission. THE EU Mission noted that in some places there were reports of a high number of assisted voters and of voters not found on the voter roll.

Observers widely reported on efforts to undermine the free expression of the will of electors, through inducements, pressure and coercion against prospective voters to try to ensure a vote in favour of the ruling party. Such practices also included direct threats of violence, pressure on people to attend rallies, partisan actions by traditional leaders, collection of voter registration slips and other measures to undermine confidence in the secrecy of the vote, manipulation of food aid and agricultural programmes and other misuses of state resources.

State-owned TV, radio and newspapers, which dominate the media landscape, were heavily biased in favour of the ruling party and incumbent president in their election-related coverage. Media operated in a generally free environment during the campaign and freedom of expression was respected.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) trained and deployed over 6,500 observers to every ward, constituency, district and province, of the country. ZESN found that the political environment was largely calm and peaceful. The ruling and opposition political parties were able to campaign freely across the country with the MDC Alliance and ZANU-PF holding the majority of rallies during the campaign period.

ZESN reported incidents of traditional leaders openingly canvassing support for the ruling party and in some instances forcing people to attend ZANU PF campaign rallies. This was mainly enforced through threats that food aid would be stopped and support for local projects would be withdrawn if people dont vote for ZANU-PF.

The scrapping of the discredited 2013 Voters Roll eliminating deceased voters and inaccurate information about existing registrants. ZESNs analysis showed that approximately 2.7 million registrants on the 2013 Preliminary Voters Roll were not on the 2018 Voters Roll initially released by the The Zimbabwe Election Commission [ZEC].

ZEC allocated significantly more Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits to the rural areas where there was high registration and only allocated 8% of the BVR kits to the Bulawayo and Harare metropolitan provinces. The registration rate for rural areas was 83% while for urban areas it was 72%. Similarly for registrants aged between 18 and 32 the registration rate was 59% while for registrants 33 and older the registration rate was 100%.

The media fell short of fair, equitable and balanced coverage of political players as this largely favored established political parties, particularly ZANU PF. ZESN reported a significant number of incidents of ZANU-PF officials using state resources for campaign purposes. The most frequent types of abuse were: the distribution of food or agricultural inputs, the use of government vehicles and facilities for campaigning, and government officials speaking at campaign events.

At only 84% of polling stations all voters had a finger marked with indelible ink before voting, and polling officials did not always check for indelible ink. For Bulawayo, Harare, Mashonaland West, Matabeleland North, and Matabeleland South at less than 30% of polling stations were most assisted voters aided by a person of their choosing. At 6% of polling stations many people (26 or more) were turned away and not permitted to vote. This was by far most common in Harare where at 19% of polling stations many people were turned away and not permitted to vote.

Only a few hours before the start of the deadly post-vote violence, the African Union Electoral Observer Mission to Zimbabwe (AUEOM), the SADC Electoral Observer Mission to Zimbabwe (SEOM) and the COMESA Election Observer Mission, three very important African bodies, had all released individual communiques that endorsed the controversial election process. The fact that not one but three African institutions deemed the election credible only shows how low the bar for democratic and electoral standards is currently set in Africa.

Mnangagwa said he will call for an investigation into election violence when hundreds of Chamisa supporters, angry that the election results were postponed, threw rocks at police outside commission headquarters Wednesday. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons. The army was called in, and witnesses say soldiers beat and shot at marchers, leaving at least six dead and 14 wounded.

Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party must try to fix Zimbabwes ailing economy and poor international image on its own, while also dealing with a population demanding change after 40 years of Mugabe. The economy, in dire need of resuscitation, is a top priority for many. Jobs are still so scarce that university graduates are forced to resort to small-scale street vending.

Zimbabwe can no longer afford to remain locked out of the international community. It requires a kick-start by credit line and investment. It needs a leader who can unselfishly deal with the deep-rooted divisions among its citizens, fight corruption and create an environment that is conducive to economic growth.

Zimbabweans remain among the best-educated in sub-Saharan Africa, and its infrastructure is still among the better, despite a lack of investment over the past decades. This gives it a strong platform to reignite economic growth, if it can get the right economic policies in place and improve the rule of law.

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