Zimbabwe: Pre-Election Survey Shows Support For Mnangagwa, ZANU PF Ahead
With 44 days until the 2023 harmonised general election, Afrobarometer and Mass Public Opinion Institute released pre-election survey findings indicating a decline in support for the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and a surge in support for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU PF).
The survey shows that 27% of respondents would vote for CCC leader Chamisa, a decrease of 6% since June 2022, and 35% for Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa’s support base increased by 5% since June 2022, marking a turnaround from a systematic decline in his vote since taking power. 65% of respondents said the country is going in the wrong direction, with 69% and 62% saying the economy and living conditions, respectively, are bad. An overwhelming majority (85%) say the government has performed badly in addressing unemployment, corruption, and the economy. A significant number of respondents, 26% and 27%, refused to reveal their preferences for the parliamentary and presidential elections respectively.
Chamisa’s vote used to be far ahead of his party, but the gap has closed to 1%, while Mnangagwa’s support base has increased by 5% since June 2022.
Political analyst Dr. Phillan Zamchiya says the survey is an early wake-up call for the opposition CCC. He says if presidential elections were to be held a day after the survey, the CCC leader would lose to the ZANU PF leader. He added:
This is a better approach because even if the survey turns out not to be a true reflection of political dynamics on the ground, the CCC would have increased its margin of victory come 23 August. In short, they would have lost nothing. An easier and self-soothing approach would be to bury one’s head in the sand and continue with business as usual. This is dangerous because if the survey turns to be a true reflection of political dynamics on the ground, the CCC would have done nothing and lost everything with no room for correction till the 2028 general election…
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Of interest is that Mnangagwa’s vote used to be far below that of his party [ZANU PF] but there is now some equalisation. This, as it stands, might signal a reduction in deviation politics i.e. bhora musango. However, a significant number of respondents, 26% and 27%, refused to reveal their preferences for the parliamentary and presidential elections respectively. This is not surprising in a repressive environment. Opposition supporters are more likely to fear expressing their political affiliation compared to ruling party members in authoritarian contexts. Nevertheless, it is not a given that all those who refused to say their preference would vote for the CCC unless they tell us so. The good news for CCC though is that this base of potential voters is huge enough to swing the vote in their favour and win both at parliamentary and presidential level, that is if they do the right things and the environment becomes relatively free and fair.
Dr. Phillan Zamchiya added that the recent Afro-barometer survey on Zimbabwe reveals a paradox in the country’s political landscape. Zamchiya said although the survey shows a decline in support for the opposition and a surge in support for the ruling ZANU PF and its leader, Mnangagwa, most citizens are not satisfied with the current government’s performance. A majority of respondents (65%) believe that the country is going in the wrong direction, while an overwhelming majority (85%) agree that the government has performed poorly in addressing critical issues such as unemployment, corruption, and the economy.
Despite this, the survey results indicate that the same people still vote for the failing government and not for the opposition. Dr. Zamchiya mentions four broad answers that can be deduced from the survey results. Firstly, some citizens do not believe that an election under the current authoritarian environment can lead to a change of government. Secondly, a significant number of respondents believe that the announced results will not reflect the counted votes. Thirdly, many citizens fear becoming victims of political violence during elections. Finally, the bad performance by ZANU PF does not automatically lead to the transfer of votes to the opposition.
Dr. Zamchiya emphasizes that it is up to the opposition, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), to convince the electorate that it has better socio-economic policies, a more democratic culture, and the stamina to govern. The CCC needs to unleash a robust and tectonic institutional response on the ground to turn the tide in their favour. It is not enough for the opposition to merely highlight ZANU PF’s failures. Without the necessary political and democratising reforms, citizens may view elections as a mere ritual that fails to express their will.