President Robert Mugabe tightened his grip on Zimbabwe on Monday with victory in a Senate poll seen by critics as a mere formality, but analysts say low voter turnout showed deepening dissatisfaction with his 25-year rule.
Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party went into Saturday’s elections for a new upper chamber of parliament a certain winner, thanks to an opposition boycott in many constituencies and electoral laws that reserve seats for loyalists such as tribal chiefs.
The party had won 23 of the 29 seats announced by mid-day on Monday with only two results still to be declared, giving it a near 90 percent majority in the 66-seat Senate which will have the final word on any new laws.
But analysts say while ZANU-PF consolidated its victory, the government had been embarrassed and Mugabe’s own credibility hurt by a voter turnout of only 10 percent after a boycott campaign by main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
“The government’s confidence has been shaken . . . and there will be many people in his camp who will be looking at this as a sign that they are isolated and are losing support,” said Eldred Masunungure, a leading political commentator.
“What this might do is to undermine their loyalty to Mugabe and ZANU-PF, and although we might not see public desertions, some of his lieutenants will be wary of taking open positions against the opposition,” he said.
Tsvangirai, whose opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) split into two bitter factions over the Nov. 26 polls, claims most Zimbabweans believed it was pointless to “continue taking part in fake elections.”
The MDC chief ordered a boycott, saying participation would lend legitimacy to a government that routinely rigs votes.
But a rival MDC faction said Tsvangirai had lost an internal vote on the issue and went into the polls, fielding 26 candidates and winning at least six seats.
Reuters, November 28, 2005