Country Report Zimbabwe September 2010

Outlook for 2010-11: Domestic politics

The two main parties in Zimbabwe's power-sharing government, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), will continue to manoeuvre for power. Progress will be patchy at best and subject to frequent reversals: ZANU-PF insists that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed in September 2008 will not be implemented fully until targeted Western sanctions are lifted. Both Mr Mugabe and the prime minister, Mr Tsvangirai, say that they want fresh elections in 2011 to break the deadlock, but this is disingenuous, not least because the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission believes that it will take up to 18 months to produce an updated electoral roll, while the constitutional outreach programme is already running a year behind schedule and is likely to be delayed further. In addition, whatever he may say in public, Mr Tsvangirai almost certainly prefers the status quo to fraudulent and possibly violent polls, and although Mr Mugabe may believe that ZANU-PF has a greater chance of winning polls under the existing constitution and electoral roll, there are clear advantages to postponing polls, since internal tensions within the MDC, and pressures on Mr Tsvangirai, are likely to increase.

The Economist Intelligence Unit still believes that polls are unlikely to be held before 2012, but concerns about ZANU-PF's likely electoral strategy-which has previously involved intimidating the opposition and manipulating the result-are likely to add to discontent within a section of the MDC that already believes Mr Tsvangirai to have lost touch with the electorate. Disquiet about the harassment of MDC supporters-or potential deadlock over the constitution, with ZANU-PF and the MDC remaining fundamentally divided on the delineation of presidential powers-could lead to another split within the party or its withdrawal from the government of national unity (GNU) as currently constituted. Under such a scenario Mr Mugabe would try to remain in power, possibly seeking to co-opt those MDC politicians who believe that forcing an election would lead to an unacceptable wave of violence against party supporters. The president has proved to be highly adept at such manoeuvres in the past, and there is no guarantee that international pressure to force him from office would succeed.

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