Political analysts watching the approach to high-stakes elections in Zimbabwe March 29, President Robert Mugabe has turned the machinery of state to his advantage.
Critics of Mugabe, 84, say he has recruited the army, the police, state television and radio, and even the nominally nonpartisan Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to bolster his position against opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai and former finance minister Simba Makoni, who launched an upstart campaign in February.
Preliminary results of March polling by Mass Public Opinion Institute of Zimbabwe that were leaked to the weekly Independent newspaper showed Tsvangirai taking a lead with 28% percent of voter intentions compared with 20% for Mr. Mugabe and 9% for Makoni. Final results of a February poll by the MPOI had Mr. Mugabe with 30% of voter intentions, Tsvangirai with 28% and Makoni with 12%, the MPOI said.
Yet independent observers say electoral logistics combined with the impact of state media and the weight of Zimbabwe's state security apparatus favor Mr. Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network estimates that due to a lopsided allocation of polling stations, a voter in Harare province will need to be processed in 22 seconds and in some cases as little as 9 seconds on election day.
For perspective at this point two weeks before the March 29 elections, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Temba Shonhiwa, a political commentator based at Witwatersrand University, South Africa, who dismisses fears by Harare that Zimbabweans might react violently to an apparently rigged election.
Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe Professor John Makumbe said that while there is less violence this year than in previous election seasons, arrests of opposition candidates and supporters and other irregularities, combined with the Makoni factor, could have an unpredictable impact on the outcome of the elections.