Zimbabwe braced for election – Sunday Business Post

http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2008/03/23/story31422.asp

Zimbabwe will elect a new president, parliament and senate on Saturday, amid fears of post-election violence.

ZANU-PF leader and president Robert Mugabe has ruled since independence, and will run against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The Movement for Democratic Change leader was a narrow loser in the 2002 elections, which were widely believed to have been rigged.

Simba Makoni, Mugabe’s former finance minister, is the third candidate. He left ZANU-PF to run as an independent, a breakaway that so incensed Mugabe that he called the challenger a ‘‘prostitute’’ on national TV a month ago.

An unquantifiable number of party bosses yearn for Mugabe’s stage-managed exit, precipitating the lifting of Western sanctions. Makoni is backed by former army chief Solomon Mujuru, but other party elites are hedging their bets in public until the eve of the vote.

An opinion survey published last Tuesday showed Mugabe with the support of 20 per cent of the electorate, trailing Tsvangirai by eight points. Makoni lagged behind on 9 per cent, but those who said they had not made their minds up are likely to be Makoni supporters who are afraid to go public.

Last week, Tsvangirai alleged that voter rolls were bloated by perhaps several hundred thousand ‘‘people who are registered but do not exist’’.

Zimbabwean Knox Chitiyo, head of the Africa programme at the Royal United Services Institute, told The Sunday Business Post that it was ‘‘unlikely anyone will get the 51 per cent needed for outright victory. We may get a close result forcing a runoff election, upping the likelihood of violence. The result will be disputed, whoever ‘wins’ “.

There will be no winners either among Zimbabwe’s suffering millions. Some 80 per cent of them are unemployed in a land where the IMF puts inflation at 150,000 per cent.

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