Photo: Opposition MDC supporters wave flags at a rally to launch their election campaign in Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan. 21, 2018. VoA. Associated Press.
On Wednesday, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that the country is to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on July 30th. In less than two months, Zimbabwean citizens will have the opportunity to vote, in the first elections since the ousting of Robert Mugabe in November last year. What do you need to know about the upcoming elections?
For current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the 2018 elections are mostly about legitimizing his presidency. Following the November 2018 coup, in which the military leadership installed the former vice-President as the country’s new leader, Mnangagwa needs democratic confirmation through the ballot. Mnangagwa has invited Commonwealth election personnel to monitor voting in Zimbabwe for the first time since 2002, when Harare was suspended from the group over accusations of rigged elections. Experts claim that, if qualified as free and fair, the July-elections could be an important step in bringing foreign investors back to the southern African country after a decade of economic decline.
Nevertheless, there are grave concerns about several aspects of the upcoming elections. Despite Mnangagwa’s narrative of free and fair elections, many still fear rigging. This is not without a reason. A little over a week ago, deputy Minister of Finance Terrence Mukupe made a controversial statement during a ZANU-PF meeting, claiming that those who were behind the military intervention to oust Mugabe will never let MDC-T leader Chamisa take over if he wins the elections.
The electoral Act still does not allow Zimbabweans who live outside the country to vote. Most recently, the refusal of Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to have an open tender for the procurement of ballot papers and other related material sparked outrage among opposition and civil society, who believe this poses a serious threat to the credibility of the elections.
The upcoming elections are also to be seen as a clash between old and new. The old political generation is represented by a 75-year-old former ally of Robert Mugabe. Emmerson Mnangagwa still rides the narrative of the independence war like Mugabe did, and is strongly supported by the current upper echelon of the military and by former military leaders who have taken their places in government.
A younger generation of political life is being represented by Nelson Chamisa. The 40-year-old was put forward by the MDC after long time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai died of cancer in February this year. Chamisa has prioritized the reform of the country’s social systems as part of his bid to win the Presidency, and has also promised to return land to dispossessed white farmers. Nevertheless, the MDC-party is still fractured, with several party members still not fully supporting Chamisa’s race.
Finally, the G-40 faction, who lost the battle against the Crocodile last November, seem set to mobilize once again. Under the name National Patriotic Front, the Mugabe clan is backing Ambrose Mutinhiri – a man who served nearly four decades under Mugabe and had fought alongside him for liberation.
Will any of these competitors be able to defeat ZANU-PF in the upcoming elections? In the view of many experts, no opposition party is in a position to challenge the ruling party. ZANU-PF is happy to hold these elections simply because they’re confident of victory, rather than for commitment to a new dawn of democracy. “Though the election looks like it will go to the wire, the greater likelihood, based on cold-blooded analysis, is that experience, depth and state incumbency will triumph over youthfulness,” said Eldred Masunungure, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe.
What role could civil-society and social movements play in the upcoming elections? For an in-depth analysis of the situation in Zimbabwe, check our recently update ZIMBABWE COUNTRY ANALYSIS online.