A SURVEY commissioned by Afrobarometer, an African-led series of national public attitude surveys on democracy and governance in the continent, shows that a majority of Zimbabweans want elections this year, though only a minority expect them to be free and fair.
The results of the survey on public support for the inclusive government showed that 70% of adult Zimbabweans wanted elections this year. Relatively few people favoured postponing elections to next year (6%), 2013 (3%), or later, including never (14%).
“Zimbabweans prefer open elections –– which involve mass participation and party competition –– to elite deals to share power. This popular commitment is confirmed by the 86% who agree that “we should choose our leaders in this country through regular, open, and honest elections” as opposed to “some other method,” noted the survey.
Unlike in September 2009, when a slim majority (52%) was optimistic that the next election would be adequately free and fair, only 46% was similarly hopeful by October last year.
The survey results were released last month. It was conducted in all 10 provinces of the country in October last year by the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) led by University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure.
“In perhaps the most striking finding in the October 2010 Afrobarometer survey, 70% of adult Zimbabweans answered “yes” to a question that asked: “Do you think that Zimbabwe should hold elections next year, that is, in 2011?” Relatively few people favoured deferring elections to a later date such as 2012 (6%), 2013 (3%), or later, including never (14%),” reads the survey.
Zimbabwe faces increased political uncertainty and the nominal power-sharing government has been dogged by political run-ins between President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, which won the last general election.
Last month, Mugabe complained he was unhappy being in the power-sharing government, saying it was an unconstitutional arrangement. He said there had been a breakdown in communication between the leadership. Mugabe has called for early elections this year, but Tsvangirai insists promised reforms should be in place before any poll. Critics say rushed polls without political reforms, including a new constitution guaranteeing basic rights, would favour only Mugabe and Zanu PF.
The survey found that over the 18-month period from May 2009 to October last year, the proportion of respondents who insisted on the secrecy of the ballot and refused to say for whom they would vote rose from 25% to 32%.
In addition, the proportion who said they would not vote also rose (from 4% to 7%) as did the share of those who said “don’t know” (from 4% to 5%).
Many interviewees preferred that certain conditions be set to guarantee free and fair elections. About 24% said there should be no violence and peace should be maintained while 17% wanted the presence of international and domestic observers or peacekeepers and 9% opted for a reform to the constitution.
The survey said more people found the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) unprepared to run the next elections while 34% rural people were ignorant on what ZEC was about.
ZEC chairperson Justice Simpson Mutambanegwe last year admitted that the commission was not prepared to run elections as there was a “huge task and that task includes cleaning up of the voters roll and the lack of financial resources”.