As the MDC-T conceded an early defeat in Zimbabwe’s polls, an expert analyst said President Robert Mugabe had the elections in the bag long before the polls.
Michael Bratton, political science and African studies professor at Michigan State University and analyst for pollster Afrobarometer told City Press “the intelligence service has penetrated the staff of the electoral commission, thus ensuring control of the vote count and announcement of results”.
At the same time, the registrar of voters made it difficult for young people in urban areas, who are MDC-T sympathetic, to register to vote.
He also said the MDC had left things too late. “They relied for too long on the assumption that the voters would give them credit for their role as a partner in the coalition government in contributing to the country’s improved economic conditions.
“But Zanu-PF, whose leaders spent their energy electioneering rather than governing, were more effective at mobilising their supporters. This was especially true in the rural areas, where two-thirds of the population live, and where the election will be decided.”
He said “this election was always going be an uphill struggle for MDC-T”. Zanu-PF had reduced the level of open violence, but “they stepped up their manipulation of the electoral machinery. Mugabe accelerated the election schedule, thus pre-empting agreed-upon security, media and other reforms.”
Bratton wrote an article in the US Foreign Affairs journal that Mugabe had put in place government and legal structures that may assure voters return his Zanu-PF party to national office”.
The party appears “to have invested heavily in measures to manipulate the electoral machinery”, according to Bratton.
An example of this is how Mugabe called an election by decree once the Zimbabwe Supreme Court determined it had to be done by July 31, short-circuiting a parliamentary debate over a new election law that would allow the polls to be delayed. Early elections are disadvantageous to the opposition MDC party, which was slow to recover from 2008 election violence, when 200 of its members were killed.
“Mugabe and Zanu-PF seem to recognise that an open replay of 2008’s electoral brutality will only undermine the validity of their rule,” he writes in the article, Zimbabwe’s Underhanded Autocrat. “Therefore, they now rhetorically proclaim peace while reaping the harvest of fear that they planted during earlier periods of intimidation.”
Despite claims by the MDC-T of vote-rigging, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the African Union provisionally declared the elections free and fair, while the elections commissions body of the Southern African Development Community said the elections were conducted efficiently.
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