Voter apathy set to give Zanu PF urban windfall

 Loughty Dube/Godfrey Marawanyika

AN expected voter boycott in the senate election tomorrow could land the ruling Zanu PF its first contested seats in five years in several urban areas.

Political analysts this week said the expected low voter turnout could hand Zanu PF seats in urban areas where it last won representation during parliamentary elections a decade ago.


The ruling party takes to the ring against a section of the fragmented Movement for Democratic Change, weakened by a vigorous anti-senate campaign by its own leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in polls that most people have dismissed as irrelevant to the country’s pressing economic problems.


Analysts say most people in urban areas will boycott the poll due to apathy and the mixed message coming from the opposition.


“There will be significant voter apathy in this election,” said John Makumbe, a Harare-based political analyst.


“We have a situation where the anti-senate part of the MDC that appears larger than the pro-senate group is calling for a boycott and the result is that people in urban areas will not take part in the senate election.”


The MDC is split along two lines with one group led by party secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, advocating participation in the election while the other group, led by party president Tsvangirai, is against taking part in the poll.


Makumbe said the pro-senate group was wasting resources by campaigning when it was clear that the majority of MDC supporters had paid attention to Tsvangirai’s message of boycotting the election.


Political analyst Eldred Masunungure of the department of political science at the University of Zimbabwe, said voter apathy had always worked in favour of Zanu PF. And in this instance Zanu PF will win some seats in urban areas.


“As it is, Zanu PF has won seats unopposed in Harare and other areas. The polarisation in the MDC will work in favour of Zanu PF as there is no consensus around candidates within the MDC,” Masunungure said.


He said the senate election did not excite political instincts that would spur an ordinary Zimbabwean to find time to vote in the election.


“Zanu PF knows that and that is the reason the party is mobilising strongly in urban areas because they know they will pick up seats but the people will stay away from the polling stations,” Masunungure said.


Lovemore Madhuku, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson, said the expected voter apathy was not simply a result of divisions in the MDC but voter scepticism of elections that are conducted under the current constitution.


“The voter apathy expected on Saturday is not really over the divisions in the MDC but is a result of people not being sure of voting under the current constitution. The MDC divisions only worsened the situation,” Madhuku said.


Madhuku said it was difficult for the Zanu PF to win elections in urban areas, especially in Bulawayo and other centres.


“As long as a few people go out and vote, Zanu PF will not win in urban areas,” Madhuku said. “No one in their right minds will vote for a party that has destroyed their lives. Zanu PF does not have the capacity to attract even its own supporters to go and vote.”


Makumbe however said divisions within the MDC came at a very unfortunate time and that would give Zanu PF significant ground in areas that were traditionally MDC strongholds.


“The more space Zanu PF gets in urban areas the more the party can boast that the MDC is a dead party,” Makumbe said.


Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) says if people vote the same way they did in the March election, the MDC will not win any of the senatorial seats even in provinces it won during the parliamentary polls.


According to Zesn’s analysis of the senatorial constituencies, government collapsed the existing 120 constituencies as delimited under the December 2004 Delimitation Commission into 50 constituencies.


The report said that the basis for delineating the 50 constituencies remains a mystery, igniting all sorts of allegations of gerrymandering with a view to fixing the election outcome.


“Overall, whether intentionally or not, the senatorial constituencies are demarcated such that were the electorate to vote the same way on November 26 as it did on March 31, the MDC would not win any senatorial seats even in those provinces where it won some seats in March 2005, such as in the Midlands and Masvingo,” Zesn said.


“In Manicaland, the MDC would marginally win the new Mutasa-Mutare seat, thanks to the inclusion of Mutare North but would lose the new Mutare senatorial constituency.”


In total, Zesn said the MDC, under the new senatorial dispensation would win 17 seats, one of them very marginally in Manicaland and eleven in Matabeleland.