HARARE – While the race for Munhumutapa between President Robert Mugabe and MDC challenger Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai remains deadlocked, enthusiasm for Mugabe’s Zanu PF is slightly higher than for the MDC, a new national poll shows.
According to an Afrobarometer opinion poll released Friday, 32 percent of likely voters supported Mugabe and would have voted for him if elections were held in July, 2012, with 31 percent backing Tsvangirai.
Given that the one point margin is within the survey’s sampling error, the race can be seen as a tie. The poll, conducted with 2,400 adult Zimbabweans, showed that slightly more people think the country is moving in the “right direction” (48 percent) rather than the “wrong direction” (43 percent). Similarly, more people think that, over the previous year, the country’s economic condition became better (35 percent) rather than worse (23 percent).
And considerably more people expect the country’s economic condition over the next year to improve (52 percent) rather than decline (20percent). Turning to the perceived performance of the inclusive government, the record is more mixed. For example, Zimbabweans are split right down the middle on whether the coalition government has managed the economy “well” (49 percent) or “badly” (50 percent).
The survey, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, found that Zimbabweans gave the government high marks for addressing educational needs (71 percent say they are handling this task “well”) and improving basic health services (69 percent).
But they gave the GNU low marks on creating jobs (12 percent say “well”), providing a reliable supply of electricity (14 percent), and fighting corruption (15 percent). And, while a large minority (41 percent) credits the coalition with “resolving” political violence, a larger majority (56 percent) thinks it has done “badly” on this score.
First, when asked how much they trust political parties “after the Inclusive Government,” 46 percent of the public say they trust ZANU-PF “somewhat” or “a lot,” while exactly half trust MDC-T (50 percent).
Second, when asked to evaluate the job performance of the two top political leaders, 58 percent approve of the work done over the previous year by President Mugabe compared to 66 percent for Prime Minister Tsvangirai.
Thus, both parties enjoy a measure of institutional trust and both leaders are appraised positively for performance in office. “These results in July 2012 stand in stark contrast to earlier Afrobarometer surveys in which Tsvangirai benefited from wide margins of approval over Mugabe (82 versus 24 percent in May 2009),” the survey says. “In welcoming the IG’s delivery of economic stability and relative peace (at least as compared to 2008), the general public now seems to grant almost as much credit to Zanu PF as to MDC-T.”
The survey showed that Zimbabweans remain deeply concerned about political violence. “Fully 88 percent think that multiparty competition ‘often’ or ‘always’ leads to violent conflict. This figure represents an increase since 2009 (80 percent) and is far higher than any other country in the Afrobarometer, including even Nigeria (74 percent) and Kenya (76 percent).
“In addition, some 63 percent of Zimbabweans say that, during election campaigns, they personally fear becoming a victim of political intimidation or violence. “They also worry about freedom of expression. Fully 89 percent assert that people “often” or “always” have to be careful of what they say about politics. Again, this is the highest rate ever recorded by the AB in Zimbabwe or anywhere else in Africa. And some 61 percent consider that the government ‘often’ or ‘always’ silences ‘opposition parties or their supporters’.”