Coming Soon : Pre-Election Detectors

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition will next week release a report entitled "Pre-Election Detectors: ZANU PF's attempt to re-claim political hegemony". This week we publish the abstract and invite you to look out for the full report.


The classic question is why do political parties and governments manipulate elections. This paper offers a more nuanced investigation of why and under what circumstances do authoritarian regimes decide to adopt and drop certain political strategies of manipulating elections. In order to answer this question the article investigates the political strategies at the centre of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF)'s attempt to win the next harmonised polls and re-establish its hegemony. Other commentators reduce the ZANU PF electoral strategies to the use of physical violence against opposition supporters conceptualised as the 'margin of terror'. Whilst I agree that state sponsored violence is endemic in Zimbabwe, I argue that ZANU PF is embarking on a more sophisticated and multi-pronged approach to cover its terror tactics in order to re-gain political legitimacy. The reign of terror unleashed by ZANU PF in the run-up to the June 27, 2008 'election' undermined the party's legitimacy in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU) and internationally. Hence, physical violence in 2013 will not be as blatant and as extreme as in the previous June 27, 2008 'election'. ZANU PF is aware that naked physical violence will not be accepted in SADC and yet at the same time a relatively free and fair election might undermine its electoral chances. Pitied between a rock and a hard place, what strategies can ZANU PF use in the next harmonised election? The party prefers a psychological warfare premised on manipulating the fear inculcated in communities over years among other strategies. These include partisan registration of voters, ideologically appealing to popular groups; state financed patronage, control of state media and targeted persecution (devoid of physical harm) against civil society leaders and opposition supporters. Whether these political strategies will work in favour of ZANU PF only the next election will tell.

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