A new survey
showing Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party trailing President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF in favorability has sparked an angry reaction from the prime minister's movement.
The poll by a Harare think-tank, the Mass Public Opinion Institute, sponsored by the U.S.-based Freedom House, indicates a sharp decline in support for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) formation, which narrowly won the last general elections in 2008.
In a report titled Change and New Politics in Zimbabwe
, the institute says its survey found that the Tsvangirai MDC's fortunes in the parliamentary vote fell from 38 to 20 percent between 2010 and 2012.
In stark contrast, Zanu PF's support increased from 17 to 31 percent in the same period.
But MDC-T Secretary General Tendai Biti rejected the findings, telling VOA that Zanu PF cannot be more popular than his party, calling it “a party of clowns and dinosaurs”.
“That’s not possible," Biti said. "What has Zanu PF done in the last three years that will persuade any right-thinking Zimbabwean to think that our future lies with Zanu PF?.”
“The fact that they can come up with an alternative constitution is a reflection of the fact that we are dealing with a party of clowns and dinosaurs, and Zimbabweans want real transformative change,” he added.
About 47 percent of those polled did not want to share their political opinions.
The survey says many people continue to be fearful that new polls, expected in 2013, could result in heightened levels of political violence.
They also say leaders across the political spectrum have not performed to their satisfaction especially on such issues as unemployment and local service delivery.
Tsvangirai MDC party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told journalists in Harare that his movement remained the most popular in the country.
He said surveys carried out under the current conditions are difficult to rely on due to violence.
“Regrettably," Mwonzora said, "the report does not distinguish between people in communal lands and people who were settled on commercial farms. It is a known fact that during the land reform program, Zanu PF parceled out agricultural land only to its supporters.
"Therefore, most people in the resettlement areas are Zanu PF supporters. Without making that crucial distinction, it is difficult to rely on information that may have been gathered in predominantly Zanu PF areas to gauge the support of other political parties.”
Mwonzora also disagreed with the findings that most Zimbabweans relied on the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and the Herald newspaper for news and other information.
“Most rural areas do not have reception for ZBC radio and largely rely on Radio VOP and Studio 7 for news," he said.
"Conditions on the ground show that even Zanu PF has now turned to Studio 7 as evidenced by the incessant use of this radio by the Zanu PF officials especially its spokespersons.”
But Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said he was not surprised by the results, adding the increase in his party support shows Zimbabweans are happy with its policies, especially the land reform and indigenization.
Political observers who spoke on condition of anonymity say the Mass Public Opinion Institute is a respected organization, which has conducted credible surveys in the past.
“The MDC should not attack the results," one observer said. "The question they should be asking is why their support is declining.”