WITH only five days to go before Zimbabwe’s watershed general elections, public opinion surveys and party campaigns show that President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are going head-to-head as they enter the homestretch in a race which is a dead heat.
Crowds thronging Zanu PF and MDC-T rallies against a backdrop of recent surveys by Freedom House and Afrobarometer show that next week’s elections would be a close call between the two parties.
Judging by rallies held so far, Zanu PF still maintains a stranglehold on the three Mashonaland provinces, while MDC-T controls most towns and cities like Harare and Bulawayo, and provinces like Manicaland and Matabeleland.
According to an analysis of the voting trends in the March 2008 polls by Zimbabwe Independent, indications are that the voting patterns are not going to dramatically shift.
For the first time since Independence in 1980, Zanu PF lost presidential elections and its parliament majority to the MDC-T in March 2008.
Tsvangirai won the presidential poll with 1 195 562 votes against Mugabe’s 1 079 730 votes — a huge gap of 115 832 votes.
Mugabe won in Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland South, while Tsvangirai got Harare, Bulawayo, Manicaland and Matabeleland North provinces.
Mugabe went on to win the discredited June presidential run-off poll — one of the most violent poll in Zimbabwe’s history — in which he contested alone after Tsvangirai pulled out citing political violence and intimidation against his supporters.
Although Zanu PF lost its parliamentary majority, it won the popular vote in parliamentary elections with 1 111 625 voting for the party compared to 1 038 617 for MDC-T in an election which Mugabe faced bhora musango (internal electoral sabotage) from disgruntled party members.
MDC-T won 100 seats, Zanu PF won 99, MDC 10 and one went to an independent.
The former liberation movement now faces the fight of its life against MDC-T on July 31.
Based on the election results gaps of 1 500 votes or less, the Independent found that this could be one of the most tightly contested elections in Zimbabwe’s history.
Although Mugabe’s star rallies have attracted huge crowds, he is unlikely to dislodge Tsvangirai’s dominance in Harare, Manicaland and most of the Matabeleland provinces.
In Harare, MDC-T won 25 of the 26 parliamentary seats while Zanu PF secured only one seat. Tsvangirai received 49 657 votes and Mugabe 11 118 in the presidential polls.
Using the 1 500 vote difference between the winning and losing candidate in the 2008 elections, Epworth and Mbare can go either way.
Zanu PF lost by 1 462 votes in Epworth and 1 399 in Mbare.
This trend is likely to continue in this election but both parties face problems of double candidates in at least 34 parliamentary constituencies.
There are 28 MDC-T candidates who rejected the party’s directive to withdraw and will contest as independents in Bulawayo (5), Matabelelend North (4), Manicaland (4), Matabeleland South (3), Midland (3), Mashonaland West (3), Harare (2) and Masvingo and Mashonaland East with one each.
Zanu PF has four disgruntled candidates, Jonathan Samkange (Mudzi South), Daniel Garwe (Murehwa North) and Marian Chombo (Zvimba North) running as independents while Munyaradzi Kereke (Bikita West) filed on a Zanu PF ticket together with the party’s endorsed candidate Elias Musakwa.
In Bulawayo, MDC-T has three safe seats, while it can lose the other 10 to Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC.
In Manicaland, MDC-T seems to be safe in 10 constituencies From L1
with Zanu PF guaranteed of just two while 14 out of the 26 seats likely to be tightly contested.
Mashonaland Central is likely to remain in Zanu PF’s control, as it looks safe in 15 of the 18 seats, while the other three are up for grabs between MDC-T and Zanu PF.
The battle in Mashonaland East will be fiercely fought between Zanu PF and MDC-T in at least 10 constituencies. Zanu PF looks safe in 13 and MDC-T in one.
Zanu PF’s dominance should continue in Mashonaland West where eight constituencies would be up for grabs. Zanu PF is safe in 12 of the 21, while MDC-T can bag Chinhoyi, which flamboyant businessman Philip Chiyangwa is fighting to close the gap of about 3 400 votes. Zanu PF lost the seat by in 2008.
Masvingo will provide a fierce battleground given that Zanu PF looks only safe in nine constituencies and MDC-T six. The two parties should be battling it out in 12 constituencies.
Mugabe still has a grip on the Midlands province, in which Zanu PF is guaranteed of grabbing about 14 seats, while MDC-T has five safe seats. The two parties will be fighting for dominance in eight constituencies.
Zanu PF is likely to win in six constituencies in Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces, while MDC-T is safe in four and MDC in four. Twelve of the 26 in the two provinces can go to either of the three parties.
According to Afrobarometer, 32% of 2 400 Zimbabweans sampled said if an election had been called last year, they were going to vote for Mugabe while 31% would support Tsvangirai.
Ncube had 1% of the vote, although his party won most seats in Matabeleland South and its presidential candidate Simba Makoni got about 8% beating Mugabe and Tsvangirai in the province.
Ncube has gained some traction and could emerge as the kingmaker.
“Any future election in Zimbabwe remains too close a call,” Afrobarometer said. “No political party in Zimbabwe can afford to be complacent about an easy electoral victory.”
Afrobarometer also said Mugabe and Tsvangirai may not win the presidential election outright in the first round, suggesting a run-off again although all of them would want an outright win to avoid another possible coalition government.
The Freedom House survey titled Change and New Politics in Zimbabwe concluded “that in terms of the declared survey-based support, it appears the MDC-T has been suffering a decline in support, falling from 38% to 20% in the parliamentary vote from 2010 to 2012, in a period of approximately 18 months between the 2010 and 2012 surveys”.
In 2008, the MDC-T won all the seats in Bulawayo, 96,55% of the seats in Harare and 76,92% in Manicaland.
In Masvingo, it managed to win 53,85% of the seats and in Matabeleland North 38,46.
However, MDC-T fared poorly in Mashonaland Central (11,11%), Matabeleland South (16,67%), Mashonaland East (17,39%), Midlands (25,93%) and Mashonaland West (27,27%).
Zanu PF won 88,89% of the seats in Mashonaland Central, 82,61% in Mashonaland East, 74,07% in Midlands and 72,73% in Mashonaland West.
In Masvingo, it won 46,15% of the seats and 30,77% in Matabeleland North. The party made a poor showing in Bulawayo where it did not win a single seat, 3,45% in Harare, 23,08% in Manicaland and 25% in Matabeleland South.
MDC only won seats in Matabeleland South (58,33%) and Matabeleland North (23,08%).
The tables on the right show the some of the swing constituencies and the parties’ battle to take control of them.