A PUBLIC opinion poll of Zimbabwe’s voters shows declining support for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) and a significant comeback for President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu (PF).
The startling findings were made public at a news briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday to launch the report, titled Change and ‘New’ Politics in Zimbabwe.
The poll, conducted in all 10 of Zimbabwe’s provinces in June and July, was commissioned by the US-based Freedom House and conducted by respected South African political scientist Susan Booysen, with field work by the Mass Public Opinion Institute of Harare.
The survey of a representative sample of 1,198 adult Zimbabweans is far from definitive evidence of the outcome of elections due in the first quarter of 2013. For one thing, nearly half of those who were asked about their voting intentions, if elections were held the next day, declined to answer or said they did not plan to vote at all.
But the reported trends will certainly be a concern to Mr Tsvangirai and pose hard questions about his decision to enter a coalition government with Mr Mugabe and about his and his ministers’ performance in office. Conversely, the trends will delight Mr Mugabe.
The same survey was conducted in 2009 and the comparisons with this year’s results are stark. Three years ago, 55% of respondents said they would vote for the MDC-T candidate – Mr Tsvangirai – in presidential elections and only 12% chose Zanu (PF)’s Mr Mugabe. In 2012, the numbers had reversed to 19% for Mr Tsvangirai and jumped to 31% for Mr Mugabe.
The "undeclared" and "will not vote" totals were 31% in 2009 and a whopping 47% in 2012, meaning that the trends are not nearly clear enough to draw any emphatic conclusions.
Zimbabwe’s elections are also at least seven months away and political alignments will certainly shift before then.
The survey covers socioeconomic conditions as well as politics, elections and security, and in many areas the responses are encouraging for the coalition called the inclusive government. Many Zimbabweans are confident that the next elections will be free and fair and say that they lack fewer of the basic necessities of life than they did in 2009.
The breakaway MDC faction led by Welshman Ncube and known as MDC-N has little support, according to the survey. It is included with other small parties totalling only 2% of voter intentions.
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