Zimbabwe’s military unexpectedly ousted President Robert Mugabe in late 2017, nearly four decades after he took power. Debilitating internal factionalism within the ruling Zanu-PF party over succession to Mugabe has culminated in the elevation of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the helm. He has promised to break with the past as he endeavours to navigate a much needed economic recovery. Prospects for promoting a new more inclusive political culture are less certain. Credible elections in 2018 could be a vital stepping stone toward a peaceful democratic transition, but they also pose a challenge to Zimbabwe’s weak institutions. Through research and analysis, Crisis Group sheds light on obstacles to a smooth, credible electoral process leading up to 2018. We help relevant actors nationally and internationally to buttress the likelihood of peaceful elections and democratic transition.

CrisisWatch Zimbabwe

Deteriorated Situation

Multiple observation missions reported widespread irregularities in general elections, casting doubt on legitimacy of vote which saw President Mnangagwa declared winner of second term.

Election authorities Mnangagwa re-elected in elections marred by irregularities. Electoral commission 26 Aug declared President Mnangagwa winner of presidential election held 23 Aug with 52.6% of vote against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s 44%; ruling party ZANU-PF also won 136 of 210 parliamentary seats against 73 for main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). Chamisa 27 Aug alleged “gigantic fraud” and 29 Aug called for elections rerun. Conduct of elections could also hamper Zimbabwe’s re-engagement drive with international partners, as most international election observers said vote was marred by irregularities and poor organisation, while pre-election environment was largely favourable to ZANU-PF. Notably, in departure from past statements on elections in Zimbabwe, Southern African Development Community (SADC) 25 Aug said elections “fell short of the requirements of the Constitution of Zimbabwe”, citing curbs on freedom of assembly and judicial capture. In response, Mnangagwa 27 Aug criticised outside observers for “interrogat[ing] institutions of a sovereign government”.

Lead-up to vote and election day marred by violence and repression. NGO Zimbabwe Peace Project recorded 84 human rights violations related to elections in first half of Aug, including arson, assaults, kidnapping threats and intimidation. Notably, suspected ZANU-PF activists 3 Aug ambushed and killed CCC supporter near campaign rally in capital Harare; police arrested 10 people in connection with case. Police 15 Aug also arrested 40 CCC members including MP candidate for allegedly blocking traffic and disrupting order during campaign event in Harare suburb. On voting day, journalist and opposition figure Hopewell Chin’ono 23 Aug accused ZANU-PF supporters and officials of intimidating voters outside polling stations, also criticised electoral commission’s lack of preparedness as authorities extended voting to 24 Aug in some wards amid delayed distribution of ballot papers. Police 24 Aug arrested 41 election monitors from civil society groups, accusing them of trying to disrupt voting process by releasing unofficial vote results from independent count.

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