Zimbabweans say they have a lot to learn from the Wednesday night debate which featured United States presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney who clashed in the first of three debates setting the agenda for the November election.
Political analysts and civic society activists told VOA the televised debate which focused on economic policies, healthcare and other important issues played a key role in a nation’s democratization process.
They said Zimbabwe should introduce such debates in order to promote the spirit of democracy among contenders and the electorate.
Faith Zaba, news editor of the Zimbabwe Independent who was at the venue the presidential debate in Denver, told VOA the auditorium atmosphere was electrifying.
Zaba, who is currently on a journalism exchange program sponsored by the US State Department, said there were many scribes from all over the world covering the event and it was refreshing for her to see all media being given open access to the Denver University event.
She said it was amazing to see journalists interviewing influential people from both parties “considering that we don’t have such opportunities in Zimbabwe.”
WOZA leader Jenni Williams, who is also in the U.S and watched the debate on television, said she was impressed and shocked to see presidential opponents sharing the same platform and debating pertinent issues without any violence.
“They were debating serious matters and are fully accountable for those issues. It was quite interesting and it’s the first time that I saw such a thing in my life,” Williams said.
Journalism professor Stanford Mukasa of USA’s Indiana University in Pennsylvania said the debate was a useful platform for closely scrutinizing the presidential candidates.
“It’s a necessary part of any democratic electoral process and I wish in Zimbabwe candidates would also submit themselves to this kind of scrutiny,” said Mukasa.
He said: “Of course Mr. Romney was very low on details and when you sieve through everything that he said there was really nothing substantial that he offered.
“There is a very big difference between the two. Romney is largely theoretical because he has never been in government, at least at the central government level, while Mr. Obama was speaking more from his presidential experiences.
“So if you have been in government for four years it is a sobering experience and he (Obama) was down to earth.”
Mr. Obama and the former Massachusetts governor had sharp differences on economic policies, healthcare and other issues in the televised debate that lasted 90 minutes. Pundits praised Romney for being aggressive compared with President Obama who appeared subdued.
A Cable News Network poll of registered voters who watched the debate in Denver, Colorado, showed that 67 percent believe Romney won the debate while just 25 percent thought the president defeated the governor.
The two candidates will meet for another debate on October 16 in a town hall-style session in which they will take questions from the audience and their running mates Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Rayn Paul are set to clash soon.