2018 polls: ‘Zimbabwe braces for presidential run-off’

HARARE – This year’s presidential elections could be decided by a re-run because none of the aspiring contestants has capacity to garner enough votes in the first round of voting, analysts have predicted.

By Mugove Tafirenyika

The country goes to the polls any day between July 31 and August 31, unless Parliament is dissolved earlier in terms of the Constitution.

In the main, the elections will pit incumbent president and Zanu PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa and National People’s Party (NPP) leader Joice Mujuru as the notable contestants, among others.

Over 120 political parties have registered to contest the elections, the first to be held without former president Robert Mugabe representing Zanu PF.

The irony of it is that Mujuru formed NPP following her ouster from Zanu PF by Mugabe in 2014, while Mnangagwa wrested power from the despot after he too was fired.

On the other hand, Chamisa’s rise to the MDC helm was not without drama after a succession battle with two other MDC vice presidents following the death of the party’s founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in February this year.

While this election is seen by many as an epoch-making one, analysts have predicted that Zimbabwe’s next president may not be decided by the first round of voting.

Political analyst Macdonald Lewanika told the Daily News on Sunday that Mnangagwa’s military-aided rise to power left sediments of disunity in the ruling party, which could cost it at the polls.

He said the same also applied to Chamisa and Mujuru’s parties, which, apart from being vexed by the perennial cancer of splitting towards elections, have failed to agree on a coalition arrangement to field one presidential candidate against Mnangagwa.

“…it seems to me that none of the key actors – Chamisa, ED (Mnangagwa), JTR (Mujuru) or the brigadier (National Patriotic Front leader Ambrose Mutinhiri) – have enough to get through the first round with 50 plus one percent,” he said.

“The different splits chip away at solid support bases and the smaller groups will play spoiler for the bigger ones. In fact, that has to be their role if they are to increase their influence and bargaining power, so that would be the smart play for (Thokozani) Khupe and others so that they can sit at the table and negotiate to acquire that which they cannot get through popular support because they won’t have it,” he said.

While Chamisa’s MDC is grappling with the possible effects of Khupe’s decision to break ranks and lead a rival MDC outfit, Mujuru’s initial Zimbabwe People First party started on a bad note with its founding leaders, Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa, jumping ship.

Her resultant formation of NPP has not been a bed of roses as well, with senior party officials disembarking at every turn along the way — defecting to either Zanu PF or the MDC.

A University of Zimbabwe senior political science lecturer, who preferred anonymity, weighed in saying “there will definitely be a run-off”.

“While Chamisa stands a good chance of winning the first round, the Khupe factor will deny him an outright victory,” he said.

“Once that happens, Mnangagwa will bounce back because it then becomes easier to form a coalition with Mujuru, given that they have the same ideological background, unless of course if Chamisa and Mujuru agree to work together”.

However, another analyst Maxwell Saungweme reasoned that Mnangagwa had an upper hand over his rivals and could come out as an undisputed winner, because he can manipulate the vote.

He pointed to the power of incumbency that gives unlimited access to State resources as well as the Zanu PF history of roping in the military into politics as a plus for Mnangagwa.

“With the military fear factor, uneven electoral playfield, lack of electoral reforms and a militarised Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission), Mnangagwa will be announced a clear winner from a rigged process,” Saungweme said.

He said the lessons from the 2008 election had taught Zanu PF that it has to rig the election so effectively as to avoid a run-off.

In the 2008 poll, Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of voting before pulling out of the subsequent runoff citing violence and intimidation targeted at his supporters.

He also claimed that another advantage on Mnangagwa’s part would be the “compromised” nature of some of his contestants, as they are allegedly “products of the system”.

“In fact, most of the parties are all Zanu PF outfits posing as opposition parties. In fact, most senior MDC Alliance members could be political double agents whose aim is to remain on government payroll under a Mnangagwa regime,” Saungweme alleged.

“The multiple parties are also linked to economics and bread issues in a country with formal unemployment of over 90 percent.

“If you pose as a political party leader you have a bit of chance to be included in a possible inclusive government. So the aim of 99 percent of the political parties is not to lead the next government but to be accommodated into next government by Zanu PF, make no mistake about that.

“The people being misled by these political leaders are ordinary citizens following these Zanu PF projects posing as opposition. These are the people actually being rigged by both pseudo opposition parties and Zanu PF”. – Daily News

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