HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the leader of the ruling party Zanu PF is more likely to retain power in the coming August 2023, according to poll survey results revealed on Monday.
The release of the Afro-barometer poll survey reveals some challenging prospects for the main opposition the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa.
“Despite the paradoxical findings of the survey, it is crucial for the CCC to reflect collectively and take action to improve their electoral prospects”, a prominent academic Dr. Phillan Zamchiya said.
Dr. Phillan Zamchiya told The Zimbabwe Mail that CCC should intensify its efforts and engage in grassroots campaigning to turn the tide in its favour.
“Even if the survey does not accurately reflect the current political dynamics, the CCC would still benefit from an increased margin of victory if they actively work towards it.
Taking a passive approach and ignoring the survey’s findings would be dangerous, as it could lead to a potential loss in the election without any chance for correction until the next general election in 2028.”
Dr. Zamchiya says the survey indicates a decline in support for the opposition, including the CCC, and a surge in support for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). If the presidential elections were held shortly after the survey, the CCC leader would lose to the ZANU PF leader.
He also said the survey reveals that 27% of respondents would vote for the CCC leader, while 35% would vote for Mnangagwa of ZANU PF.
“This marks a 7% decrease in the CCC leader’s support base since June 2022. Notably, when Chamisa took over as opposition leader, only 16% expressed intentions to vote for him, but this number had risen to 33% by June 2022. Additionally, the gap between Chamisa’s individual support and that of his party has closed to just 1%.”
Conversely, according to Dr. Phillan Zamchiya, the survey shows that Mnangagwa’s support base has increased by 2% since June 2022.
He said, this shift in dynamics is significant, considering there had been a consistent decline in Mnangagwa’s support since he assumed power after Mugabe’s ousting in a military coup.
“In 2017, 38% of surveyed citizens expressed intentions to vote for him, which had dropped to 30% by June 2022”, he said.
However, a notable portion of respondents, according to Dr. Zamchiya 26% and 27% respectively, declined to reveal their preferences for the parliamentary and presidential elections.
“This reluctance to disclose political affiliation is not surprising in a repressive environment, as opposition supporters are more likely to fear expressing their allegiance compared to ruling party members in authoritarian contexts.
It cannot be assumed that all those who refused to disclose their preferences would vote for the CCC unless they explicitly state their support.”
Dr. Zamchiya reveals that the survey’s positive aspect for the CCC is that the potential base of voters who refused to reveal their preferences is significant enough to swing the vote in their favor if the right conditions are met.
“The CCC would need to take appropriate actions, and the electoral environment must become relatively free and fair for this potential advantage to materialize”, he said.
The paradox remains in the fact that, despite the majority of respondents expressing dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, including the direction of the country, the state of the economy, and living conditions, a substantial number of them would still vote for the failing government instead of the opposition. The survey provides four broad explanations for this phenomenon:
- Lack of belief in the possibility of a change in government under the current authoritarian environment: A majority of respondents (54%) do not believe that an election can remove the poorly performing ZANU PF leaders.
- Doubt about the credibility of election results: A significant number of respondents (49%) believe that the announced election results will not reflect the actual counted votes, echoing Joseph Stalin’s attributed statement that “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.”
- Fear of political violence: Around 59% of respondents fear becoming victims of political violence during elections. Some people may vote for the ruling party to ensure “peace” in their communities, particularly considering that 50% of respondents said previous elections had led to violence in their neighborhoods. This perception demonstrates that without essential political and democratic reforms, citizens may view elections as mere rituals that fail to reflect the will of the people.
- The need for the opposition to provide a convincing alternative: Despite ZANU PF’s poor performance, it does not automatically translate into a transfer of votes to the CCC. The CCC must persuade the electorate that they possess better socio-economic policies, a more democratic culture, and the capacity to govern. Merely highlighting ZANU PF’s failures is insufficient.
In conclusion, Dr. Phillan Zamchiya presented his perspective on the Afro-barometer survey’s implications for the CCC’s electoral prospects in Zimbabwe. He urged CCC to respond with a robust and comprehensive institutional approach on the ground to improve its chances of success.