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Key questions to ask before Zimbabwe elections


08:21, July 31, 2013

HARARE, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe is just a day away from holding the crucial presidential, parliamentary and local council elections on July 31. Here are some key questions answered by Xinhua reporters on the ground.


For the presidential race, incumbent President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) will square off against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube (MDC-M), Dumiso Dabengwa, leader of Zimbabwe National People's Union (Zapu) and Kisinoti Mukwazhe of the Zimbabwe Development Party. Dabengwa and Mukwazhe both expressed intention to quit.

Mugabe, 89, and Tsvangirai, 61, are the front-runners in the presidential election while Ncube will most likely benefit from tribal votes in their home area of Matabeleland, but not enough to win the race.

For the parliamentary race, Mugabe and Tsvangirai's parties are contesting in all the 210 National Assembly constituencies, but the smaller parties have left it to those they think they have chances of winning. There is also a possibility that the smaller parties may not have been able to get people wanting to contest on their tickets in some constituencies.


Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980. He won the competitive presidential races in 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008. In the past two battles between Mugabe and Tsvangirai since 2002, Mugabe scored straight wins – though not without disputes.

An outright Mugabe win this time may be contested especially by Tsvangirai and Ncube, who will say that because key reforms in the pro-Mugabe security and media sectors were not implemented before the polls, the process might not be totally free and fair.

If Tsvangirai wins, a constitutional crisis may emerge with the pro-Mugabe defense forces chiefs who have openly refused to accept his victory and might stop him from assuming power.

This may lead to further isolation of Zimbabwe within the international community and plunge the country back to the economic turmoil which started in 2000 and only eased with the formation of an inclusive government in 2009.

Indications are the race will be very tightly contested and a run-off is possible. Lack of an outright winner in the legislative elections may also see the formation of another inclusive government.

Pressure seems staked heavily on Mugabe to win the first round of presidential elections outright to avoid a run-off; otherwise all the smaller parties fielding presidential candidates will gang up against him and encourage their supporters to vote for Tsvangirai.


A hang-over from Zimbabwe's 2008 disputed and violent polls prompts regional and international communities watch closely the on-going electoral process.

During his landmark trip to Africa, U.S. President Barack Obama specifically touched the issue of Zimbabwean elections, saying that the economic recovery gives the country an opportunity to move forward "but only if there is an election that is free and fair and peaceful so that Zimbabweans can determine their future without fear of intimidation and retribution."

But the government turned down West's request to observe the elections, citing that the countries that impose sanctions on Zimbabwe cannot be objective. That leaves the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) to make up the bulk of foreign observers.

The relations between the Mugabe administration and the West turned sour in 2000. To date, Mugabe and his party hard-cores remain on the sanction lists of a number of Western countries including the U.S. and the EU.

But the western world is increasingly intimating that it will accept Mugabe's victory provided the elections are free and fair, an assessment left to SADC and AU observers.

If the elections get the endorsement, business confidence will rise and lines of credit by international institutions will be opened. With more cash inflows, some industries which have remained closed will be re-opened.

Some argue that a win by Tsvangirai will also see Zimbabwe returning to the Commonwealth within a few months. Mugabe pulled the country out from the club in 2003 following disputes with especially Britain, Australia and New Zealand over governance issues.

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