ZANU-PF uses state to influence election outcome

According to Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2013 that was published today [23. May], senior leaders of the army, police and intelligence services in Zimbabwe “would again try to influence the next election in favour of ZANU-PF.”

The last elections, in 2008, were marred by widespread politically motivated violence committed by President Mugabe’s political supporters in the state apparatus and Amnesty International documented thousands of cases of torture, disappearances, killings and violence.

This years elections in Zimbabwe will also see severe repression of the political opponents of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, the Amnesty report says. “Police continued to suppress free expression, association and assembly throughout the year, through arbitrary arrest, unlawful detentions and politically motivated prosecutions … at least 300 people were injured as a result of politically motivated acts of torture or other violence.”

Nevertheless, due to political pressure from both the Southern African Development Community and internationally, ZANU-PF is seemingly intent on manipulating the upcoming elections in a less violent, and more covert, manner than in 2008.

According to a recently published report by non-profit organisation Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, “ZANU-PF is embarking on a more sophisticated and multi-pronged approach to cover its terror tactics in order to re-gain political legitimacy … Hence, political violence in 2013 will not be as blatant and as extreme as in the previous June 27, 2008 ‘election’.”

Not that ZANU-PF will not try to manipulate voters into voting for them, says Crisis in Zimbabwe. But this manipulation will be done primarily by more peaceful means such as “partisan registration of voters, ideologically appealing to popular groups, state financed patronage, control of state media and targeted persecution (devoid of physical harm) against civil society leaders and opposition supporters.”

And such manipulation is bound to increase because Mugabe and his allies have an important reason to be re-elected, apart from the wish to retain power in Zimbabwe, says Crisis in Zimbabwe. “The cost of losing is too high given the allegations of gross human [rights] violations and corruption by the incumbent and those who surround him.”

The pressure on Mugabe is not as high as it ought to be, regardless of his obvious authoritarian tendencies, however. This is due to the fact that “Zimbabwe is not an exception in the world or in the region,” says Crisis in Zimbabwe. “About 55% of all countries outside the Western world do not qualify as either a liberal democracy or at least an electoral democracy.”

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