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Most Zimbabweans Back Opposition Parties Coalition Ahead of 2018 General Elections

FILE - Morgan Tsvangirai, left, leader of Zimbabwe's Movement For Democratic Change, gestures next to Zimbabwe People First (ZIMPF) leader Joice Mujuru, center, who is a former Vice President of Zimbabwe.
FILE - Morgan Tsvangirai, left, leader of Zimbabwe's Movement For Democratic Change, gestures next to Zimbabwe People First (ZIMPF) leader Joice Mujuru, center, who is a former Vice President of Zimbabwe.

A survey just released by Afrobarometer shows that the widely-discussed idea of a grand coalition of Zimbabwe’s opposition parties to improve their chances of defeating Zanu PF in next year’s elections has powerful support among members of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

A slimmer majority of politically-uncommitted citizens also favour such a coalition, while Zanu PF supporters reject the idea by a 2-to-1 margin.

“The prospect of a grand opposition coalition finds support among a plurality (45%) of Zimbabweans, including more than two-thirds (68%) of MDC-T partisans. Among citizens who do not align themselves with any political party – a group that makes up half of the adult population – a majority (54%) favour the idea of a grand opposition coalition.

“ZANU-PF supporters reject the idea, 41% to 23%. Support for the coalition proposal is stronger among urban residents, better-educated citizens, and men than among rural dwellers, less-educated respondents, and women.”

The survey findings also reveal that the majority of people favour the idea in just three of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces – the traditional opposition strongholds of Bulawayo (64%), Harare (62%), and Matabeleland North (54%).

“Even a grand coalition might face an uphill struggle in the elections: Only 22% of respondents say they would vote for opposition candidates in a hypothetical election, and trust in opposition parties continues to decline, with just one-third (32%) of respondents saying they trust them “somewhat” or “a lot.”

“Opposition supporters and uncommitted endorse grand coalition The prospect of a grand coalition finds traction among a plurality (45%) of all adult Zimbabweans citizens, while 28% give it a thumbs-down. About one in four say they neither agree nor disagree with the idea (11%), don’t know (15%), or refused to say (2%).”

Afrobarometer says in post-independence Zimbabwe, the opposition has been marked by fragmentation – a fact that cost them the presidency in the March 2008 “when the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under Morgan Tsvangirai scored a plurality but fell short of a majority.

“The opposition has been at its feeblest since its heavy (albeit controversial) defeat in the 2013 elections, when the ZANU-PF achieved a more than two-thirds majority, which it has increased via by-elections boycotted by the MDC-T. Since 2013, the number of opposition parties has grown rapidly; there are reportedly now more than four dozen, although fewer than half a dozen are considered “serious” national parties.”

Afrobarometer indicates that the disorganized state of the opposition has prompted widespread talk in opposition and civil society circles about the need for a pre-electoral “grand coalition” of opposition parties to challenge Zanu PF in the highly-anticipated elections, expected around mid-2018.

Afrobarometer survey data shows that Zimbabweans are sharply polarized along partisan lines on the issue. The findings also suggest that proponents of a grand coalition may need to do more in terms of marketing to convince uncommitted voters of a coalition’s prospects, especially in light of the fact that popular trust in opposition parties continues to decline.

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in African countries.

It conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples. The Afrobarometer team in Zimbabwe, led by Mass Public Opinion Institute, interviewed 1,200 adult Zimbabweans between 28 January and 10 February 2017.

According to Afrobarometer, a sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3% at a 95% confidence level.