MDC thought it could win 85 seats in 2005


Movement for Democratic Change campaign coordinator Ian Makone told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that the party could win as many as 85 of the 120 elected seats in the 2005 elections.

He said 40 seats were safe and another 45 were marginal and could go either way.

He, however, said the election playing field would have to be level for the MDC to in 85 seats.

Realistically, though, the MDC hoped to win 60 seats.

Makoni said even the low end of 40 seats would be a success in the sense of consolidating the tradition of a significant opposition presence in Zimbabwe’s parliament.

Ed: The party won 41 seats.

Full cable:


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Reference ID






2004-12-15 10:09

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002036







E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2009







Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d


1. (C) SUMMARY: During a lunch at the Residence on December

8, MDC National Campaign Coordinator Ian Makoni and MDC MP

(Mutare) Innocent Gonese updated the Ambassador on MDC

election plans and inter-party relations. They reported that

the MDC was better organized than it had been in previous

elections and was exploiting gradually opening campaign

space. The pair asserted that the opposition could win 85 of

the 120 seats under the best of circumstances, that 60 would

be a practical victory, and that 40 would likely be the low

end absent massive fraud.   END SUMMARY.


Election Preparations



2. (C) According to Makoni, the MDC’s election strategy had

four pillars: (1) pressure for free and fair elections; (2)

preparation for the elections; (3) campaigning; and (4)

securing the vote. He asserted that the party had learned

lessons from previous elections, when it had underestimated

the extent to which the ruling party would rig the election.

This year the party would likely eschew street action in

favor of focusing on the polling station. He acknowledged

that International Republican Institute representatives who

were working with the party were disappointed not to see more

visible activism, but stressed the importance of grassroots

electoral organization, which was “almost done.” Gonese added

that full access to the media was the potential key to an MDC

success in the elections.


3. (C) Makoni reported that the opposition was much better

organized than it had been for the national parliamentary

elections in 2000 or the presidential election in 2002. This

would be the first time the party had structures all the way

down to the village level. The party previously relied

largely on establishing an emotional connection with the

electorate; now it had recognized individuals who could

engage on a personal level in practically every community.

This would be especially important on election day if the

party hoped to counter an intimidating ZANU-PF presence at

many polling stations. In this vein, Makoni reported that

MDC voters would be encouraged to remain at polling stations

after they had voted — a safety-in-numbers strategy. The

party nonetheless still needed to develop more street-level

structures analogous to the ZANU-PF cells. The two conceded

that there were frictions within the opposition but

maintained that Morgan Tsvangirai continued to enjoy broad

and deep support throughout the party.


4. (C) The pair confirmed that the party was continuing to

see more campaign space in some areas (a trend noted three

months ago in reftel). Police were being more responsive to

applications for meetings and were suppressing violence in

some areas on a non-partisan basis. Chiefs and war veterans

in certain areas were actively contributing to a lowering of

temperatures, and party supporters were wearing MDC T-shirts

in areas previously regarded as “no-go” zones. No-go areas

remained and intimidation continued to be a significant

obstacle but party structures were alert to exploit space as

it opened.


Election Prospects



5. (C) Makoni and Gonese ruminated on their party’s

prospects for the March parliamentary elections. Makoni said

he considered 40 seats “safe” for the MDC and another 45

“marginal” seats that could go either way. (N.B. Leaving 35

safe seats for ZANU-PF.) He said for the opposition to win

85 seats the election playing field would have to be level.

Realistically, the MDC hoped to get 60 seats — half the 120

contested seats (30 more seats are appointed by the

President) — which would be a significant moral and

practical victory. If the party were able to win an outright

majority of the seats, it would not change the actual

imbalance of power given the executive’s dominant authority

under the constitution, but it could force ZANU-PF to deal

with the MDC. Even the low end of 40 seats would be a

success in the sense of consolidating the tradition of a

signficant opposition presence in Zimbabwe’s parliament.


Speculating on Ruling Party Intentions

——————————————— —


6. (C) Asked to comment on ruling party intentions, the pair

dismissed the possibility that the GOZ would conduct

by-elections to fill the seats recently vacated by MDC MP

Stanley Makwembebe’s death and MDC MP Roy Bennett’s

incarceration. (Note: If won by ZANU-PF, the two seats would

give it a 2/3 majority in Parliament — sufficient to amend

the constitution on its own. End note.) Bennett was

appealing and there was insufficient time to give adequate

legal notice and conduct the elections in any event,

especially given the ruling party’s absorption with its

legislative agenda and primaries. Moreover, ZANU-PF was

confident it would win a 2/3 majority in the March election

and planned to engineer the constitutional amendment then.


7. (C) Makoni noted the convergence of interests within

ZANU-PF for a new constitution and prospects for Mugabe to

step down. The new constitution was expected to require that

a Vice-President assume the Presidency for the remainder of

the President’s term if he stepped down, instead of requiring

a national election within 90 days as stipulated by the

current constitution. This essentially would permit Mugabe

to have his chosen successor remain in office for an extended

period, rather than submit to the uncertainty or potential

divisiveness of an immediate election. Makoni speculated

that Mugabe would then run in 2008, only to step down quickly

in favor of a presumably trusted successor to hold office

(and protect him) until 2014.


8. (C) The pair expressed little doubt that Mugabe would be

able to hold his party together for the foreseeable future,

notwithstanding the very real divisions exposed in the run-up

to the ZANU-PF Party Congress. They forecast that many of

the upcoming ZANU-PF primaries would be tense, not so much

over tribal issues as intense personal rivalries.





9. (C) The substance and tenor of the pair’s remarks give

every indication that the MDC will eventually end its

“conditional suspension of participation” in the March

elections. Re-entry into the race poses some interesting

challenges to the opposition, though. Given its stated

condition for re-entry — a level playing field — re-entry

risks conferring some implicit degree of legitimacy on

ZANU-PF’s superficial measures to address electoral

imbalances. At the same time, the ruling party shows growing

signs of wanting the MDC in the election so as to confer

legitimacy, so re-entry is a substantive political chit (one

of the few that the MDC holds) for which the MDC will want to

derive maximum payment. Re-entry also will technically

qualify the MDC for access to the state media pursuant to

SADC electoral principles and guidelines to which the GOZ has

subscribed. Finally, officially rejoining the race and

campaigning more vigorously may provoke an increase in

political violence that so far has remained below historical

levels associated with elections. The party’s national

executive reportedly will meet this weekend to reconsider its




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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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