Big turnout of voters forecast for crunch election

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WHEN Zimbabweans head to the polls to elect a president and parliamentarians in general elections gazetted for Monday July 30‚ Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa will learn what voters think of his ouster of former president Robert Mugabe late last year.

Voters want a free and fair election in 2018‚ after allegedly rigged elections previously‚ and are planning to turn out to vote in their numbers.

An ally of Mugabe’s‚ Mnangagwa‚ a former first vice president‚ was ushered in as interim president after joining forces with General Constantino Chiwenga‚ chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces‚ to force the resignation of the long-time president.

Most Zimbabweans see the military intervention that led to Mugabe’s resignation as either “the right thing to do” or “wrong but necessary‚” according to an Afrobarometer survey. But most also want the military to stay out of politics.

More than eight out of 10 Zimbabweans (85%) surveyed said they have registered to vote in the upcoming elections.

“Large majorities want action to ensure a free and fair election‚” said Afrobarometer. “They especially want a violence-free campaign and the presence of international election observers.”

Polled about their voting intentions‚ the survey found: “If presidential elections were held tomorrow‚ Zanu-PF would attract 42% of the vote compared to 31% for the MDC-T (combined party and Alliance). But voting intentions of 26% of voters are unknown‚ limiting inferences that can be drawn about the actual state of the presidential race.”

Although Zanu-PF was the most liked political party‚ Afrobarometer noted it commands less than half of the adult population.

More than half (56%) of Zimbabweans surveyed said opposition parties could do better in the 2018 elections if they formed a coalition rather than competing as separate entities.

Trust is a key issue‚ the survey showed.

“Not quite half of Zimbabweans say they trust the ruling party (48%)‚ President Mnangagwa (47%)‚ and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (46%) ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot’. Trust in opposition political parties is lower‚ while religious leaders command the greatest trust (67%) among Zimbabweans.”

Most do not foresee a continuation of Mugabe’s policies‚ said Afrobarometer. A majority (57%) said they expect President Mnangagwa to govern differently than his predecessor.