By Prince Kurupati
According to the latest Afrobarometer survey, Zimbabwe’s main opposition party the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa will win the upcoming 2023 harmonised elections by a slight margin over Zanu (PF) which is currently in power. The survey which was released on 15 June 2022 has led to massive debates about the country’s current political climate on social media platforms.
According to the survey, 33% of the voters will vote for the opposition CCC while 30% of the voters will vote for the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa. This is just the second time that an opposition leader has been at the forefront of an Afrobarometer survey. The first time was at the start of 2009 when a higher percentage of the voters favoured Movement for Democratic Change (MDC T) leader Morgan Tsvangirai over long-time leader (now late) Robert Mugabe of Zanu (PF).
The mere fact that the opposition is predicted to win in the upcoming election is something to behold and treasure for the opposition as it was just formed at the start of this year. Even more impressive is that the survey comes at a time when the ruling party Zanu (PF) is extending its tentacles to all facets of the country’s political, economic and social spectrums to garner support and strategically position itself for an electoral victory through the use and abuse of state institutions among other entities.
However, worrisome for the opposition is that the margin of victory as predicted by the survey is too small. This, therefore, means anything can happen in the upcoming election more so if voter turnout is low. More worrisome about the survey for the opposition is that the higher number of voters are the older generation who generally are more aligned with the ruling party. The younger generation is riddled with huge numbers of unregistered voters while the registered show huge signs of voter apathy. If the upcoming election is affected by voter apathy, then the biggest loser is likely going to be the opposition.
While the issue of voter apathy may work in favour of the ruling party, there is a huge cause of concern for the party going into the next election as the support is dwindling by each day. Soon after he was elected the country’s president in 2017, 38% of the surveyed citizens supported Mnangagwa. However, that support base has dwindled in the past five years to 30%. Owing to the massive dissatisfaction with Mnangagwa’s rule by the general populace largely necessitated by the persistent harsh economic outlook, there is a huge probability that the support will keep going down. Massive work, therefore, is needed to ensure that support doesn’t keep spiralling downwards.
A huge proportion of the surveyed citizens 27% refused to express their preferences. Afrobarometer said this isn’t surprising considering the ‘repressive’ environment they currently live in. According to political analyst Philan Zamchiya, the proportion of those who failed to express their preference can swing the votes either way between the two main parties to guarantee a comprehensive resounding victory. Zamchiya said the opposition can sway this population through “the margin of influence and the margin of affect”. For the ruling party, this population can realistically be swayed through “the margin of terror (intimidation and violence) and or margin of error (through manipulating votes)”.
Apart from predicting the upcoming harmonised elections, the survey also assessed the level of confidence the public has in the president. The survey proved that the public is losing confidence in the president as 51% are confident in the president against a high of 64% in 2017. The support for the ruling party also plummeted. According to Zamchiya, this was largely necessitated by the fact that “the people are not happy about economic mismanagement, looting of natural resources like land and minerals, soaring prices of goods, the rise of domestic and gender-based violence, corruption and deteriorating infrastructure. Within ZANU PF, there are 32% who do not believe that citizens have a voice in natural resource extraction. This is potent for ZANU PF supporters voting for another party as a way to express disgruntlement”.
Reviewing the Afrobarometer survey, International Media Support (IMS)’s Rashweat Mukundu said “Under normal circumstances, these figures (projected election results) would signal introspection from political leaders on how to win support, but in Zimbabwe, the reality is that a dead heat between the ruling party and its rivals ominously points to increased violence”. Mukundu went further to state that the risk of violence is further compounded by the fact that the ruling party is looking to “reassert its power”. “With state institutions such as Parliament, the Judiciary, security sector and human rights commission largely captured by the ruling party, Zimbabwe’s political risk will significantly rise if the ruling elite finds no incentive for restraint or dialogue,” Mukundu said