Opposition MDC’s support falls sharply

2012-08-25 16:10

Zanu-PF’s support rising, survey finds.

Support for the opposition party that won the greatest number of votes in Zimbabwe’s last presidential election, turning it into an international symbol of the Zimbabwean people’s desire to end President Robert Mugabe’s decades of rule, has fallen considerably.

This is according to a new survey published by Freedom House, an international research institution.

The survey conducted by researchers Susan Booysen from South Africa and the Mass Public Opinion Institute in Harare, also found that support for Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF, had increased significantly, underscoring the volatility of Zimbabwean politics and how disillusioned many voters have become.

“Zimbabweans have not given up hope that the given moment of turnaround to a democratic and human-rights-driven system will be unleashed come the next constitution, the next referendum or the next election,” the report said.

“Many of the orientations emerging from the survey reveal cynicism and doubt about leadership deals, government and public institutions.”
Support for the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, the main opposition party, has fallen from 38% in 2010 to 20% this year among voters who declared a preference, the survey found. Over the same period, by contrast, support for Zanu-PF grew to 31% from 17%, the survey found.

The MDC won the greatest number of votes in the first round of the 2008 presidential election, but the party’s candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, refused to compete in a runoff with Mugabe because of violent state-sponsored attacks on his supporters.

Under pressure from regional leaders, the two parties cobbled together an uneasy power-sharing agreement that left the most important levers of government, including the presidency, the army and the police in Mugabe’s party’s hands.

The interim government was supposed to oversee a major overhaul of government and the constitution, but that has moved very slowly.

A new draft constitution has emerged, but Zanu-PF has demanded major changes. Elections are likely to be held early next year.

The MDC cast doubt on the survey’s findings, saying that almost half the respondents declined to reveal their voting preference.

“Surveys carried out under current conditions are difficult to rely on due to the fact that they are held under conditions of major fluidity,” said Douglas Mwonzora, an MDC spokesperson.

“A lot of people interviewed refused to disclose their political preferences for fear of intimidation and the violence they have been subjected to.”

The survey, which asked 1 198 adults around the country in June and July about their political views and hopes for the future, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Booysen, a political scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who devised and conducted the survey, said that the results did not necessarily predict how each party might fare in forthcoming elections. But they are sobering for the opposition.


Key findings of the survey include:
»47% of those who said they will vote in the next elections stated ‘this is the election that will make the difference’.

The largest block of respondents, 45%, said the Zimbabwean people will be ready for elections in the first half of 2013.

85% are ‘sure’ or ‘very sure’ that they will be casting their ballots in the next election.

»A total of 35% respondents in this survey (compared with 16% in 2010) now believe that the next round of elections will be free and fair.

»65% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that ‘fear of violence and intimidation make people vote for parties or candidates other than the ones they prefer.’

Respondents’ actual experiences of violence have decreased, however, with 22% reporting incidents of violence in their communities from 2010-2012, a drop from the 58% who reported the same between 2008-2010.

»When asked who they would vote for if parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, 47% of respondents said they would not vote, or refused to indicate who they would vote for (up from 41% in 2010).

Of the 53% who declared their preference, 20% said they would support MDC-T (down from 38% in 2010) and 31% Zanu-PF (up from 17% in 2010).


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