Chamisa’s optimism to beat Mnangagwa in next year’s elections might be misplaced

Chamisa’s optimism to beat Mnangagwa in next year’s elections might be misplaced

ZANU-PF also has reason to be satisfied with the by-election results, having flipped two previously opposition-held seats (Mwonzora faction) and lost none.

ZANU-PF’s slim, constitution-changing, two-thirds majority in parliament is thus one seat more secure. That majority was previously held only by virtue of one seat – Kwekwe Central having “mistakenly” been allocated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to ZANU-PF in 2018.

One strong electoral current commentators should bear in mind is that a large proportion of the Zimbabwe electorate is made up of vulnerable, and therefore manipulable, rural dwellers. Voters tend to view polls with the mindset of a punter at a racecourse rather than with a view to ensuring a more competent and less corrupt administration rules over his or her lot.

This mindset is quite rational, and arises from the fact that a display of fealty to the ruling party during elections can, quite literally, be a matter of life or death and can determine access to food and other vital government-supplied aid.

Two important and related features of Zimbabwean elections arise from this set of circumstances.

First, voters cast ballots for the party they think will win. So the vote is a bet on the party it is thought will emerge victorious rather than the one the voter might wish to emerge victorious.

Second, ahead of polling, opposition leaders issue an avalanche of hubristic statements with over-the-top predictions of victory in order to convince the electorate that it is they who will win – and therefore to whom fealty should be shown.

These factors need to be borne in mind when reading articles that reproduce Chamisa’s statements that the by-elections are evidence he and his CCC are on course for a “resounding victory” in the 2023 polls.

Instead of parroting claims of the undoubtedly popular Chamisa, some analysts should pay closer attention to actual results.

Chamisa, and many in Zimbabwe, saw Mwonzora’s takeover of the MDC Alliance as a secret ZANU-PF ploy to try to split the opposition vote, confuse voters and otherwise cripple Chamisa’s former highly popular party.

However, in the by-elections, at some polling stations, MDC Alliance failed to secure a single vote – leaving Chamisa smug and making it abundantly clear that voters who previously identified MDC Alliance with Chamisa had, in the past, voted for it solely because of him.

Chamisa is entitled to feel pleased at having trounced his nemesis Mwonzora and that the plot to split the vote, if that is what it was, flopped spectacularly.

However, this should not cause the CCC and Chamisa to lose focus. Come 2023, Chamisa’s rivals will not be MDC Alliance but the much tougher combo of Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF, with all the power provided by incumbency and the backing of the security sector at their disposal, and against whom Chamisa is unlikely to prevail.

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