Opposition faces tough 2018 polls

HARARE – There is growing consensus among political analysts that the country’s opposition will find it difficult to defeat President Robert Mugabe and his deeply-divided Zanu PF in next year’s much-awaited national elections.

Working against the prospects of an opposition victory are the continuing discord among opposition leaders on who should lead the mooted electoral alliance and failure to put enough pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to introduce sweeping reforms which would make the electoral field level.

“Coalition or no coalition, the opposition will emerge second best. I have no illusions on who will emerge victorious. Maybe you can debate about 2023, not 2018. Zanu PF has already won.

“The opposition, with a big tent coalition, the best it can achieve is second best and it should work for that to prevent Zanu PF winning two thirds majority.

“Zanu PF has a super majority and it can do whatever it wants because of the sheer number it has in Parliament and it is for that reason it will win,” University of Zimbabwe politics expert, Eldred Masunungure told the Daily News.

Masunungure also has doubts on the prospect of the opposition participating in the elections as a single bloc — referring to the conflicting signals and continuing disagreements on who should lead the grand coalition — by the MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai and National Peoples Party leader, Joice Mujuru.

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. There is a lot of wishful thinking among some Zimbabweans. The Afrobarometer (a survey which included Masunungure) showed that a large majority, including some in Zanu PF, would like to see a coalition but we know the role of egoism in and out of politics.

“(Joice) Mujuru was in government for 34 years and now you want her to be number two again, no ways. She was expelled because she had presidential ambitions and those in the MDC are saying our leader is the face of the opposition. He has fought dictatorship and bears the scars and also beat Zanu PF and on that basis, he has credentials.

“Those are hardened positions, each of the two parties has followers who are rooting for their leader to lead that is why you see MoUs (memoranda of understanding) being shredded, both leaders are signing their separate deals with other parties and so the possibility of a grand coalition is very remote. We may have this coalition project taking off but it will not fly high or far and I think it will collapse on egoism and on who gets what,” said Masunungure.

A large cross-section of Zimbabweans, including political analysts have consistently said a united opposition fighting with one purpose could finally bring an end to Mugabe and Zanu PF’s long rule in next year’s elections.

But both Tsvangirai and Mujuru, who are seen as the likely politicians to drive the suggested coalition, have been sending conflicting signals in developments which analysts say could confuse and drive away voters.

“Yes the odds are against the opposition given challenges that include delay in finalising the grand coalition, absence of electoral reforms, violence that is on the increase and an unprofessional and dependent electoral management body.

“But it is still possible for the opposition to wrestle power from Zanu PF. Time is running out and they must urgently finalise the grand coalition and collectively push Zec to look into challenges such as few registration centres in urban centres and issues surrounding proof of residence requirements,” civic leader and political analyst, Gladys Hlatywayo said.

“Disagreements over modalities of a coalition are now stalling progress on a concerted effort to strategise and implement a counter to Zanu PF’s menu of manipulation and mobilise voters.

“The opposition may still win the election but what is means is that they have to work around the clock.

There is no alternative to a coalition unfortunately. The opposition stands a better chance with one,” added Hlatywayo.

Southern Africa senior consultant for the International Crisis group, Piers Pigou told the Daily News that the opposition had a lot of work to do before it could think of defeating Mugabe and Zanu PF next year.

“Current electoral conditions do not lend to prospects of a free and fair election, with or without a coherent opposition. The actions of government and Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (Zec) are the key determinants in that regard.

“In terms of AU and Sadc election standards, they are clearly wanting on a number of fronts.

“It is their responsibility to ensure these problems are remedied in good time to ensure the conditions for inclusive elections and the processes employed result in a legitimate outcome that will enhance prospects for sustainable recovery. I would concur with Eldred (Masunungure) that the prospects of opposition success look bleak for a number of reasons,” Pigou told the Daily News. – Daily News