IT is with considerable, but not unreserved, optimism that I write this because the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has finally completed the announcement of the House of Assembly results.
The final tally is historic because for the first time in 28 years, Zanu PF has lost control of the House of Assembly. Of the 210 seats contested Zanu PF won 97 seats, the MDC (Tsvangirai) 99, the MDC (Mutambara) 10 and an independent 1. The remaining three seats will require by-elections because candidates contesting those seats died (of natural causes) during the election. All three are likely to be won by either the MDC (Tsvangirai) or MDC (Mutambara).
The tortuous process implemented by the ZEC this week to announce the results is unacceptable. However, the Herald curiously appeared to have the results of this race yesterday because it announced confidently that no candidate is likely to get the absolute majority required to win. The MDC (Tsvangirai) responded by announcing its own result, based on original polling station returns, giving Tsvangirai an absolute majority of 50,3%.
I cannot comment on how accurate that is and note that Robyn Dixon writing in the LA Times this morning (Thursday) says that the MDC (Tsvangirai) made an error in calculation and that on their own figures Tsvangiraiâ€™s tally is less than the 50% required.
However whether the final tally in the Presidential race is 49% or 50,3% this is in fact irrelevant because all that lower figure means is that we will have to wait a further three weeks to see the end of Mugabeâ€™s rule.
It is obvious that all democrats must rally around the candidacy of Tsvangirai in the run off and if we all do then Robert Mugabe stands to be annihilated and indeed humiliated. Not only will he face a single opponent but all the momentum is now with the MDC. Mugabe has already gerrymandered, has already given out all the taxpayersâ€™ tractors and ploughs and has already tried to use food as a weapon. In other words he has nothing further to bribe or intimidate the electorate with. They rejected these methods in the general election and there is no doubt they will reject them even more forcefully in the run off.
However I hope that there will now be some sober reflection in the MDC (Tsvangirai). The sad reality is that their failure to agree on a coalition has undermined the oppositionâ€™s victory. In at least eight House of Assembly constituencies we handed victory to Zanu PF by dividing the vote. In several others we only narrowly avoided doing the same again. At the same time many of the oppositionâ€™s best MPs such as Gibson Sibanda, Welshman Ncube, Paul Temba Nyathi, and Trudy Stevenson lost and will not be in the new parliament. We have lost their experience, integrity and expertise â€” qualities we will sorely need.
In short the MDC (Tsvangirai) must acknowledge that it has enjoyed a pyrrhic victory in many respects. All is not lost as we can still win the Presidential election in the rerun. However it is now incumbent upon the MDC (Tsvangirai) to build a broad and effective coalition.Â
By David Coltart
Coltart is a Senator for Bulawayo.