360° Analysis

Restauration and Dilemma in Zimbabwe


August 05, 2013 09:10 EDT

In the aftermath of Mugabe's win, a level of uncertainty surrounds Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is back in the news. Amid allegations of fraud, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced the country's election results. Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF won 61 percent of the vote, with Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC claiming 34 percent. In terms of voters this means 2.1 million people voted for Mugabe and only 1.1 million for Tsvangirai. Therefore, the composition of Zimbabwe's new parliament is as follows: out of 210 seats, ZANU-PF won 160 and MDC were allocated 49, with the last remaining seat awarded to an independent candidate.

Although the ZEC’s announcement was long awaited, its results are less surprising. Since Thursday morning, rumors of a landslide Mugabe-ZANU victory kept circulating and statements such as “we have buried the MDC” were heard. Soon, there was a realization that these rumors were not merely propaganda, but something real was happening.

Doing the Math

Mathematics, it is said, is not a matter of opinion. However, one could question the exact procedures and operations that led to the election's outcome in Zimbabwe. What is striking about the ZEC’s official data is the unexpected difference in votes between the two candidates. Mugabe's victory appears for many as too clear cut, even for a leader whose opponent has been losing ground as of late. Such a straight win for Mugabe was not expected, with projections predicting around 50 percent for ZANU-PF.

Mugabe’s strongholds in rural areas delivered the expected results. But what came as a surprise, or a shock, was the total defeat of Tsvangirai and the MDC in Harare and other urban areas, where there have also been the most alleged attempts at election fraud.

From the final election statistics, it also seems to be unusual — although it might be a coincidence — that the difference in votes between the two rivals is exactly 1 million — the same number of people that, according to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), were turned away from polling stations because they were not registered.  

Emerging Divisions

The Zimbabwe elections created a clear division within the international community. Western observers were banned and forced to comment from the window, whilst on the ground there were fellow African monitors of the South African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), as well as the monitoring body ZESN with over 7,000 observers.

The SADC and AU are on the same line, applauding Zimbabwe’s orderly and peaceful elections, whilst the ZESN denounce it as “seriously compromised.” The regional power, South Africa, however, has officially recognized the results.

The SADC and AU have expressed some concerns over alleged fraud, but it seems as if they are far from denouncing it as vehemently as in 2008. Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president and head of the AU observer mission, stated that accusations of fraud and irregularities were not significant enough to change the results, sparking even more furious reactions from the opposition.

This essentially left the ZESN alone, with the MDC, Tsvangirai, the EU, the US, and the UK in what is now starting to resemble a smart plan to divide the camp on the same old lines: Africa on one side and imperialists on the other. Choosing one side for support can seriously damage the opposition and play into the hands of Mugabe, because colonial rhetoric and perceived imperialist threats are still a powerful propaganda tool.

Questions Yet to be Answered

Nevertheless, even the SADC and AU acknowledged that some allegations should be investigated. Apart from turning voters away, especially in urban areas, the accusations mainly revolved around the electoral register which was not accessible until the day before the vote. The register is also based on a 1985 copy, with over 2 million names of dead voters, unaccounted for persons, or Zimbabweans over the age of 100. Additionally, the MDC accuses ZANU-PF of having used the authority of traditional rulers in rural areas to intimidate voters and “force” them to vote for ZANU-PF. All these points need to  be investigated, but thinking that any real proof will be found is elusive as, for example, no one seems to have a copy of the “(in)famous” electoral register.

Although Zimbabwe's elections delivered a clear result, the aftermath has generated many questions that will require a profound analysis of all aspects. Simply put, are we witnessing monumental fraud? Is this the end of the MDC and Tsvangirai? Will they resort to violence or will, as announced, a “Gandhi style” disobedience prevail?

From July 31 to August 3, Zimbabweans participated in their country's electoral process and hoped to be part of something to remember. Instead, today, to paraphrase a famous book by John Reed, these can be defined as the days that shook Zimbabwe and beyond. 

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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