AfroBarometer which recently released its survey that showed that 70 percent of the Zimbabweans polled wanted elections this year but nearly half did not want to disclose the party they would vote for says its data should not be used to make any predictions about forthcoming elections.
In its report entitled: Zimbabwe- the evolving public mood, which is about a survey it conducted in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces between 16 and 29 October last year, AfroBarometer says one of the most striking findings was that 70 percent of the adults in its poll said elections should be held this year. Only six percent said they should be held next year and three percent in 2013 or later.
“That seven in ten would-be voters are anxious to freely elect leaders of their choice,
even in an atmosphere where security forces and party militias are again on the move, is testament to the impressive depth of Zimbabweans’ commitments to political rights,” the report says.
It, however urges caution noting that another survey for newspaper group Alpha Media, which publishes among others the new daily Newsday only two months earlier had indicated that less than 60 percent wanted elections this year.
Its most interesting observations were, however, on party preferences. It says its surveys dating back to 1999 had shown a general trend of declining support for ZANU-PF and rising preference for the Movement for Democratic Change.
The trend seems to have, however, changed during the life of the inclusive government with preference for the MDC declining from 57 percent in May 2009, to 55 percent in September 2009 and 36 percent in October 2010. Preference for ZANU-PF on the other hand has risen from 10 percent in May 2009, to 11 percent in September 2009 and 18 percent in October 2010.
The report says elections in Zimbabwe had turned into a two-party race. None of the other parties, including MDC-Mutambara, Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn (MKD) led by Simba Makoni, and the revived Zimbabwe African Peoples’ Union (ZAPU) under the leadership of Dumiso Dabengwa – had garnered more than one percent of the intended vote in the last three surveys.
At the same an increasing number of people were not willing to reveal their political preferences. The preferences of 44 percent of the Zimbabwean electorate were unknown because the people were reluctant to reveal this to AfroBarometer researchers.
“Under such circumstances, we insist that the present data should not be used to make predictions about any forthcoming election, especially one whose date has yet to be announced,” the report says. “At this early moment, and with almost half of all adults holding their voting intentions close to their chests, there is simply no empirical basis for any such speculation.
“Instead, activists across the political spectrum will interpret the data to their own partisan
advantage. Proponents of ZANU-PF may be tempted to see early evidence of their party’s
resurgence, perhaps bolstered by an electoral and military war chest extracted from newly
exploited diamond fields. Adherents of MDC-T will have cause to wonder whether the party’s strategy of building political support via service delivery is enough to guarantee an absolute electoral majority in the absence of a parallel effort to rebuild the party’s grassroots organization,” the report says.
“We offer a more neutral interpretation here by noting the connection between declining political liberties and an individual’s natural tendency to protect the secrecy of his or her vote. Given the precedent of violent elections in the past, and ZANU-PF’s daily threats of civil war if their party loses the next election, it is entirely understandable that people should conceal their voting intentions. As evidence, we note the correlation between a person’s perception that they lack a choice of “who to vote for without feeling pressured” and their refusal to reveal a partisan preference.”
Interestingly the same report says only a handful, 4 percent, reported that they had been prevented from attending a meeting or expressing their views on constitutional reform, “which suggests that intimidation around this issue may have been more scattered or ineffective than reported elsewhere”.