THE summary below is an extract from the latest by a local think-tank, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, titled Deterrence of the Zambian Precedent in Zimbabwe: The March 2022 By-election Litmus Test: Authoritarian Resilience or Democratic Resistance? It is focused on Zimbabwe’s 26 March by-elections which on face value were won by the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), but which are subject to different legitimate interpretations, including that Zanu PF gained ground. The devil lies in the detail.
Summary of key findings:
THE electoral defeat of the ruling party in Zambia in 2021 has triggered the ruling Zanu PF elites to intensify building and strengthening the authoritarian capability and resilience infrastructure.
The current political economy has therefore been characterised by the deployment of strategies to prevent the 2021 Zambian precedent and boost Zanu PF’s staying power beyond 2023.
In this report, we conceptualise Zimbabwe as a competitive authoritarian regime that is neither in transition towards democratic breakthrough nor towards absolute autocracy. It is a deliberate mid-way regime with strong institutional safeguards to keep the system neither a democracy nor an absolute autocracy.
· On one hand, the regime fears full democracy for its exposure of un-electable elites to potential electoral defeat by the opposition and, on the other hand, fears absolute authoritarianism for its
inherent proneness to suffer coups d’état, civil wars and international isolation;
· The competitive authoritarian regime in Zimbabwe is broadly characterised by three key actors in order of their power relations: (i) the military elite, (ii) Zanu PF, and (iii) state institutions for democratic consolidation — the media, judiciary, legislature and the electoral arena. The military elite is the decisive power bloc affecting Zanu PF decision-making directly, while affecting state institutions directly or indirectly via Zanu PF as its medium;
· Four regime durability capability infrastructures intensified by the (Zimbabwean President Emmerson) Mnangagwa regime are identified as: (i) infrastructure for coercion of rivals; (ii) infrastructure for the extraction of revenues; (iii) infrastructure for the registration of citizens; and (iv) infrastructure for the cultivation of dependence.
Possibility of democratic breakthrough
· Mobilisation of large numbers of voters or large masses to protest electoral manipulation have been the two key strategies used by the opposition to create “substantive uncertainty” or “procedural certainty” of elections respectively.
· Divisions in the ruling elite and opposition alliances with moderate ruling elites make transition to democracy possible.
· Cooperation of the military in citizen-led transition is the most fundamental facet for a democratic breakthrough in Zimbabwe and the worst feared scenario in the minds of the handlers of the Zanu PF regime led by Mnangagwa. Recent studies reveal that strong regimes have been overcome by citizen protests when security forces either join the citizens or decide not to shoot their fellow citizens in defiance of orders from the ruling elite.
Voting outcomes in Zanu PF strongholds
· Zanu PF increased from the 2018 baseline of 65% to 75% of the total votes cast in 2022 in its strongholds. There is an additional 10% in 2022 showing that Zanu PF is increasing its performance and popularity in its stronghold regions.
· The CCC performance in Zanu PF stronghold regions increased from the 18% share of MDC-Alliance to 22% in 2022. There is an additional 4% showing that CCC performed better than the MDC-Alliance in Zanu PF stronghold regions.
· The proportions with which Zanu PF and CCC gained in the Zanu PF strongholds indicate that Zanu PF support is growing faster than that of CCC in this region. Zanu PF’s winning margins increased by 6% in its strongholds.
· In 2018, the MDC-Alliance fell short against Zanu PF with 47% whereas in 2022 it fell short with 53% in the same region. Read together, these statistics show that if Zanu PF manages to maintain this growth trend, it will completely knock out the opposition from its stronghold regions.
· The reduction in a few contesting candidates per constituency in 2022 saw a reduction in the total share of “other” political players from 17% in 2018 to 3% in 2022.
Outcomes in opposition strongholds
· The findings indicate that CCC performance increased by 3% of the 2018 MDC-Alliance vote compared to Zanu PF’s 8% increase in opposition stronghold constituencies.
· Whereas Zanu PF got 26% of the total vote in 2018, it managed to improve to 34% of the total vote in 2022 in the opposition strongholds. This is compared to CCC’s increase from MDC-Alliance’s 59% in 2018 to 62% in 2022 in the opposition strongholds.
· Zanu PF needed 33%+1 to win in the opposition strongholds in 2018 whereas, in 2022, it only needed 28%+1 to win in the same areas.
· There is a 5% shrinkage in Zanu PF’s losing margin in the opposition strongholds.
· In addition, the vote received by other candidates decreased from to 4% in 2022 from 15% in 2018 in the opposition strongholds.
· In 2022, the total votes in the Zanu PF strongholds declined by 46% of the 2018 baseline whereas they declined by 63% in MDC-Alliance/CCC strongholds in the same period. In the Zanu PF strongholds, CCC dropped 51% of the 2018 vote given to the MDC-Alliance whereas Zanu PF dropped 38% of its 2018 vote in the same area. This contrasts with a 61% drop
in total votes by CCC and 34% drop in total votes by Zanu PF in the opposition strongholds in March 2022. This shows that poor voter turnout affected the CCC strongholds more than in Zanu PF strongholds.
· Although all parties improved their performance in Harare province, Zanu PF had a superior improvement to CCC. It improved by 8% from 24% in 2018 to 32% in 2022 whereas CCC improved by 5% from 59% in 2018 to 64% in 2022. There was a 66% decline in voter turnout in Harare province from the 2018 baseline. The CCC party recorded a 63% decline from the previous MDC-Alliance total votes whereas Zanu PF had a 56% decline from its previous total votes in Harare province. Comparatively, CCC total votes declined by a higher proportion compared to Zanu PF in Harare province.
· Although all parties improved their electoral performance in the Midlands province during the 2022 by-elections, Zanu PF improved much better by 12% from 35% in 2018 to 47% in 2022 whereas CCC improved by 5% from 46% in 2018 to 51% in 2022.
· Therefore, Zanu PF is closing the opposition’s winning margin in this province. There is a notable decrease in the total votes going to other players from 19% in 2018 to 2% in 2022.
· There was a 54% decline in voter turnout in the Midlands province between the 2018 and 2022 elections.
· Although poor voter turn-out affects both parties, the CCC party is affected the most by poor voter turnout as shown by a 49% decline from the previous MDC-Alliance total votes as compared to a 38% decline of Zanu PF in the same period.
· CCC had a greater proportion of improvement than Zanu PF in Bulawayo. The CCC improved by 18% from 43% in 2018 to 61% in 2022 whilst Zanu PF only improved by 9% from 23% in 2018 to 32% in 2022. Therefore, CCC is increasing its winning margin in Bulawayo from the 2018 MDC-Alliance baseline. There was a 75% decline in voter turnout in Bulawayo between the 2018 and 2022 elections. Both parties were affected by poor voter turnout in Bulawayo in equal measure in terms of the 2018 and 2022 elections as shown by a 65% decline.
· For both Zanu PF and CCC, 65% of people who voted for the parties in Bulawayo did not vote in the 2022 by-elections.
Mashonaland East province
· Zanu PF improved by a greater proportion than CCC as it gained 13% from 53% in 2018 to 66% in 2022; CCC only improved by 3% from 29% in 2018 to 32% in 2022. This means Zanu PF is widening its winning margin in Mashonaland East.
· A 48% decline in voter turnout was recorded in Mashonaland East province. The CCC party suffered a 44% decline from MDC-Alliance 2018 votes compared to a 34% decline experienced by Zanu PF. This means 44% of opposition supporters who voted in 2018 did not vote or voted for the opponent in 2022 as compared to Zanu PF’s 34%.
· The CCC party in Manicaland had a reduced performance in the 2022 by-elections as shown by a 2% decrease (61% in 2018 to 59% in 2022) whereas Zanu PF improved its performance by 9% from 29% in 2018 to 38% in 2022.
· Zanu PF is decreasing the opposition’s winning margin in this province.
· A 60% decline in voter turnout was recorded in Manicaland during the 2022 by-elections. Be that as it may, the CCC party suffered a 61% decrease from the previous MDC-Alliance votes as compared to Zanu PF’s 46% decrease from 2018 votes in the same areas.
· Overall, the opposition has underperformed in terms of voter mobilisation compared to Zanu PF in this region.
Matabeleland North province
· Zanu PF improved its performance in Matabeleland North during the 2022 by-elections from the 2018 elections as shown by a 10% increase from 37% in 2018 to 47% in 2022 whereas CCC remained static (48%) between 2018 and 2022.
· The winning margin of the opposition in these areas is decreasing.
· There was a 37% decline in voter turnout in Matabeleland North between the 2018 and 2022 elections.
· Although poor voter turnout affects all the contesting parties in Matabeleland North, CCC is affected the most as shown by a 38% decline from the previous MDC-Alliance total votes in 2018. In the same province, Zanu PF is least affected as indicated by a 21% decrease from its previous total votes.
· The CCC party had a reduced performance as revealed by a decrease of 2% (15% in 2018 to 13% in 2022) as compared to Zanu PF’s improved performance of an additional 7% from its previous election score (78% in 2018 to 85% in 2022).
· Zanu PF is increasing its winning margin in this province.
· There was a 52% decline in voter turnout in Masvingo. Poor voter turnout in Masvingo province affected the CCC party more than Zanu PF.
· For CCC, there was a 57% decline in total votes whereas Zanu PF had a 48% decline in total votes. This means 48% of people who voted for Zanu PF in 2018 either did not vote or voted for opponents in 2022 as compared to 57% of CCC.
Citizens’ perceptions on key transition factors in Zimbabwe
· 64% of the respondents see the military as partisan as compared to 19% who think the military is non-partisan.
· The military being a decisive power bloc is feared for wielding powers capable of overturning electoral outcomes that are not in line with its interests.
· 47% of the key informants have hope in the power of the vote to replace a president whereas 39% of the respondents doubted the power of their vote to elect a president of their choice if such choice is not the military choice.
· 68% of the respondents doubt the possibility of a new government without getting support from the military whereas only 25% of the interviewees highlighted that a new government can assume power in Zimbabwe without the military playing an assistant role.
· Research findings also revealed that most respondents believe that the relationship between Zanu PF and the military is characterised by conflation (45%) and capture (29%) than independence (19%).
· The relationship between the military and opposition in Zimbabwe is characterised by intolerance and/or animosity as highlighted by 69% of the respondents whereas 8% perceived a tolerant and friendly relationship between the two players. Another 19% of the interviewees indicated that the military is independent in its interactions with the opposition.
· 58% of the respondents said the relationship between the military and Zanu PF deters them from freely voting for their preferred leaders in the 2023 elections, on the other hand, 28% of the respondents noted the relationship encourages them whilst 14% said they do not know.
· 55% of the respondents said the military involvement in electoral processes has produced timid voters and/or tutelary votes whereas 32% of the respondents stated that free choice votes are still produced despite military involvement in electoral processes.
· 64% of the respondents said the electoral system cannot deliver a result that is against the interests of the military/security sector. This is in contrast to 28% of the respondents who noted that the electoral system is capable of delivering a result that is against the interests of the military/security sector.
· 74% of the key informants of this study said the military is interested in keeping Zanu PF in power whilst 12% said the military is not interested in keeping the party in power.
· 79% of research participants perceived that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is linked to Zanu PF compared to 16% who said Zec and Zanu PF have no links in their lines of duty.
· 55% of the respondents believe that Zec is controlled by the military. On the other hand, 32% of the respondents highlighted that Zec is independent of the military.
· 88% of the respondents noted that there is no good relationship between Zec and opposition parties
whereas 8% of the interviewed respondents believe there is a good relationship between these two institutions. – Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.