Why Mugabe won in 2013: No scientific evidence of poll theft

By  Southern Times Reporter

A NEW book by two University of London researchers due for publication month-end says the pragmatism of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party won them the 2013 harmonised elections.

In their upcoming book; “Why Mugabe Won… the 2013 Elections in Zimbabwe and their Aftermath,” Professor Stephen Chan and Dr Julia Gallagher say after their electoral tragedy of March 2008, President Mugabe and his party went back to the drawing board and were able to get right things that had prompted the electorate to cast protest votes against them, which protest votes the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) mistook for their own popularity.

The two researchers sought to understand how a leader who had been rejected by the electorate five years previously for allegedly bringing the country to its knees was able to make such a dramatic come-back that impressed even the most sclerotic of his detractors.

“There are huge question marks over this election, but none of the verdicts to do with outright theft of the results can be sustained.

The voters’ roll was a scandal, and all observer groups noted that. Varying combinations of the words, ‘free’, ‘fair’, peaceful’, ‘credible’ and ‘acceptable’ were used by these groups. Most concluded that the elections were not fully fair,” the book says.

“It was ‘free’ in the weeks of campaigning and the days of polling – but there was a long gap between 2008 and 2013. This was a time when all manner of strategies could have been devised – fair, hardball but honest, hardball and dishonest – by ZANU-PF. It was also a time when the MDC could have prepared for elections more thoroughly and better informed than was the case. It was a time when ZANU-PF looked very hard at the electorate and, in one way or another, played to it. It was a time when the MDC did not.”

Drawing on extensive research among political elites, grassroots activists and ordinary voters, Chan and Gallagher examine the key personalities, dramatic events, and broader socio-political background of President Mugabe’s success, and what this means as Zimbabwe moves towards a future.

They concluded that President Mugabe and his party have supporters while MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and the leaders of the various other opposition formations, have mere sympathisers, opportunists who only relate to the opposition parties when there is something to get from them, unlike the former who would stand by their leader and party come hail, come sunshine.

“Drawing on the accounts of activists from all parties who witnessed the campaign on the ground, it details a professional and committed (ZANU-PF) campaign that had involved a substantial voter registration drive, effective party mobilisation and a carefully crafted re-education of the Zimbabwean electorate. While the MDC had been focused on the GNU, and assuming that they just had to ‘finish ZANU-PF off’, ZANU-PF had been organising and executing a brilliantly planned five-year election campaign,” the book says.

The researchers also pointed out that in the 2013 elections, the myth about the MDC being a panacea to the country’s challenges and its leadership being beyond reproach had been debunked and voters were able to make informed decisions based on the leadership qualities of the two leaders in the race.

“Tsvangirai, it was clear from his time as Prime Minister, had ceased to be a thinkable president in 2013. His love affairs, his apparent lack of concern at the growing corruption of MDC representatives in national and local government, his inability to instil discipline on his party; none represented him as a good father figure, or president,” the books says.

“In the end, when Zimbabweans looked at the two men running, they couldn’t see Tsvangirai as president of Zimbabwe – it wasn’t ‘thinkable’. He didn’t have the educational credentials, political sophistication, historical embededness or regional standing of Mugabe.

He didn’t encapsulate their idea of Zimbabwe.”

The book shows how on the other side ZANU-PF used its position in the inclusive government, its years of experience of electioneering, and its understanding of the electorate, to run a professional and effective campaign.

“There was real skill and targeted policy agenda in the ZANU-PF campaign; and there was somewhat less skill and less targeted policy agenda in the MDC campaign,” says the book in which the authors could not rule out another ZANU-PF landslide victory in the 2018 harmonised elections.

June 2017
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