ZIMBABWE will hold national elections today to elect a new government.
President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will face off in the contest for the third consecutive time after encounters in the 2002 and 2008 elections.
But as things stand, there are other stakeholders who will be watching the outcome of the election contest from the periphery.
Voters, Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora, South Africans, the Sadc and the rest of the world will have their eyes on Zimbabwe to see whether Mugabe will succeed in his bid for another five-year-term of office, his seventh consecutive term since independence in 1980.
Would Mugabe accept defeat?
It is unlikely that Mugabe will accept defeat.
He has already, in his election campaign trail, said this was “the fight of our lives”, marshalling his Zanu PF supporters to fight and not allow a repeat of the shock defeat of 2008. Mugabe lost the first round of voting to Tsvangirai, leading into a run-off contest.
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Concerns over his legacy and making an ungracious exit off Zimbabwe’s political stage would be the ultimate death knell over his 33-year rule over Zimbabwe, in which he has championed himself to be the liberator from imperialism and the West.
Is there a possibility of an outbreak of violence?
To date, both Zanu PF and the MDC have urged their supporters to desist from violence.
So far, the call has been heeded, but with each day that disagreements over the preparations for Zimbabwe’s elections continued to unfold, a volatile situation is unfolding and political tensions are on the rise.
An election special report released by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition on Monday entitled Can A Flower Grow Out Of The Concrete? notes that political parties had made efforts to restrain political violence as they were desperate for a Sadc-endorsed election outcome should they win.
What will become of Tsvangirai if he loses?
Tsvangirai will still be able to lead his MDC party and work on making it a formidable opposition party. Four years in, the unity government is widely held in political circles to have exposed the MDC’s deficiencies in running a government.
Is there any doubt about the elections being free and fair?
The incompletion of key political reforms as demanded by Sadc have made today’s elections likely to be contested. The voters’ roll remains tightly controlled and other political parties still do not have access to it.
“The provision of a voters’ roll goes to the very heart of a free and fair election and its non-supply undermines the credibility of this election. It also raises very serious questions about what the Registrar General’s Office is up to regarding the roll,” David Coltart, the Education minister and secretary for legal affairs in the smaller faction of the MDC, said.
“This matter has been brought to the attention of the African Union and Sadc observer teams and we look forward to receiving their comments regarding this very serious breach of the law and the electoral process.”
Can Zimbabwe’s economy survive another flawed election?
It appears strongly that the business sector wants an undisputed outcome, regardless of who wins the election. Having a clear-cut winner is expected to provide an outline of the economic policies of whatever party wins the elections.
Under the unity government, business suffered from the policy contradictions that came out of the Zanu PF and MDC sides of government forcing the business sector to adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Khanyile Mlotshwa, a Zimbabwe-born political commentator based at Rhodes University, said that no matter what the results of the election were, Zimbabwe would be accepted back into the international community and the West would start doing business with the country.
“The Zimbabwean economy has been through a lot and this election will not have any negative impact, whether free and fair or not,” Mlotshwa said.
“If anything, this election will just be an event that would allow the West to have an excuse of trooping back to Harare for business.”