PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has a mountain to climb if he is to win the anticipated presidential election run-off against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, which is legally expected to take place before May 23.
An analysis of the March 29 presidential election results announced last Friday by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) shows that it would be a huge task for Mugabe to beat Tsvangirai if opposition forces unite behind the former secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
An extrapolation of the result reveals that Tsvangirai would win with an overwhelming majority if all voters who backed independent presidential candidates Simba Makoni and Langton Towungana in the first round poll voted for the MDC leader in the run-off.
According to the ZEC results, Tsvangirai polled 1 195 562 votes or 47,9% of total votes cast to defeat Mugabe who garnered 1 079 730 ballots or 43,2% of the votes. Makoni came a distant third with 207 470 votes or 8,3%, while Towungana got a paltry 14 503 votes or 0,6% of the total ballots cast in the election.
The presidential result shows that if Makoniâ€™s movement and the MDC had agreed to field Tsvangirai as the sole opposition candidate, the former trade unionist would have garnered about 1 403 032 votes or 56,2% and the run-off would not have been necessary.
So far the other faction of the MDC lead by Arthur Mutambara has agreed to work with Tsvangiraiâ€™s camp, while negotiations with the Makoni movement were reportedly still in progress.
In terms of Zimbabweâ€™s electoral laws, a presidential aspirant must win 50% plus votes to assume office.
Tsvangirai won in four provinces, Harare, Bulawayo, Manicaland and Matabeleland North, while Mugabe emerged victorious in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland South.
However, if Tsvangirai was the sole opposition candidate he would have also won in Masvingo, Matabeleland South and the Midlands. In Masvingo, Tsvangirai and Makoniâ€™s combined votes would have been 157 230 against Mugabeâ€™s 156 672.
In Matabeleland South, the MDC leader was supposed to have garnered 71 098 against Mugabeâ€™s 46 156 ballots, while in Midlands Tsvangirai should have won 172 920 ballots, with Mugabe collecting 166 831.
The results also reveal that the three Matabeleland provinces, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East would decide whether Mugabe or Tsvangirai will win the run-off, but all indications point to the opposition leaderâ€™s victory.
Mugabe does not enjoy support in the Matabeleland provinces.
In Bulawayo alone, where voter turnout was low, Mugabe failed to garner more than 1 000 votes in seven of the 12 constituencies and came a distant third in the province. In Bulawayo Central he got 749 votes, Bulawayo East 855, Bulawayo South 714, Emakhandeni-Ethumbane 858, Magwegwe 672 and Nkulumane 987.
The results also reveal that Makoni was more popular in Bulawayo than Mugabe. He also won more votes than Mugabe and Tsvangirai in Matabeleland South.
Political analysts this week said judging by the ZEC statistics, the three Matabeleland provinces would be key to the winner of the run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Traditionally, the analysts argued, the Matabeleland provinces have been the fortresses of the opposition.
In the March 29 election, Tsvangirai emerged victorious in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North against both Makoni and Mugabe. Makoni won in Matabeleland South.
The MDC-Mutambara faction deputy spokesperson, Abedinico Bhebhe, said his party was awaiting Tsvangiraiâ€™s confirmation that he would participate in the run-off for it to launch a massive campaign for him. Ncube is the MP-elect for Nkayi South.
Tsvangirai said he would announce whether or not he will take part in the run-off once ZEC announces the date of the poll.
“Tsvangirai has to make an announcement that he is taking part in the polls,” Bhebhe said. “Otherwise some of the statements he is making, though strategic, are at the same time confusing those that want to campaign for him.”
He said the party would campaign vigorously for Tsvangirai once he enters the race.
“The issues are clear and we will obviously back him and campaign for him on the ground and we expect all democratic forces to do that,” Bhebhe said.
He said the decision to back Tsvangirai was made by the partyâ€™s national council and, therefore, all winning and losing MDC-Mutambara parliamentary candidates will campaign for the former trade unionist.
Bulawayo based political commentator Gorden Moyo said while Makoni and Mutambara can effectively campaign for Tsvangirai, what was important for them was to lobby the African Union (AU) and Sadc to ensure that the run-off would be held in a free and fair environment.
“They (Makoni and Mutambara) must add their voice to those urging Sadc, the AU and the international community to ensure that instruments of repression are removed countrywide ahead of the election,” Moyo said.
Tsvangiraiâ€™s MDC claims that Mugabe has unleashed violence against his supporters in a bid to coerce them to vote for the octogenarian leader.
The party said over 20 of its supporters have been killed by state security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans, while over 5 000 families were displaced and more than 800 homesteads razed down in the countryside since March 29.
However, the government denied orchestrating the violence and in turn accused the MDC of perpetrating it through what it called the partyâ€™s democratic resistance committees.
By Constantine Chimakure