Zimbabwe Elections 2023: This Is What You Should Know

Zimbabwe will be heading to the polls in August 2023 against a setting of one of the world’s highest rates of inflation and accusations of an intensifying crackdown on the opposition.

After Robert Mugabe’s demise in 2017, many claim that all has changed.

In a country that is attempting to reestablish its image, concerns remain regarding the free and impartiality of the ballot in the lead-up to the election.

Citizens of the Southern African nation will decide on 23 August to choose councilors, members of parliament, and a president. A second round of the presidential election will take place six weeks later, on October 2, 2023, if there is no clear winner.

In the meantime, the final candidate list has not yet been confirmed.

In the last elections in 2018, 23 people ran for president, but this time, the number is probably going to be lower after the Zimbabwe Electing Commission raised the selection charge to $20,000 (£16,000) from $1,000 (£800).

There will probably be two primary candidates. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the incumbent from the ruling Zanu-PF party, and Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the opposition from the Citizen’s Coalition for Change (CCC),

Since the military forced Robert Mugabe to resign in 2017, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, has led Zimbabwe. A year later, he won a disputed election. Before they parted ways, he had been Mugabe’s ally for a long time.

In rural areas of the country, the Zanu-PF has a lot of support. In 2018, Chamisa, 45, finished second with 44% of the vote. He lost access to party assets and state funding after a court ruling in 2020 stripped him of leadership of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

He formed the CCC in 2022, and remains enormously famous in metropolitan regions as the fundamental face of the opposition.

Other contenders include Saviour Kasukuwere – an exiled former Mugabe ally, Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC’s new leader, businesswoman Elisabeth Valerio, whose United Zimbabwe Alliance Party was launched in March 2022, and US-based businessman Robert Chapman. However, it is highly unlikely that any of these individuals will prevail.

On June 21, the nomination courts will select the final candidates for each election.

Incumbency, state power, and access to state resources are all advantages for Zanu-PF. In addition, the party, which has been in power since independence in 1980, maintains a substantial following in rural areas.

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With the economy in such a wreck, many people, particularly those in metropolitan regions and the youth, think it is the ideal opportunity for a change.

In contrast to urban and young voters, who could work against the opposition, rural voters typically turn out in large numbers. Also, the government hasn’t allowed Zimbabweans who live abroad vote, which could also work against Mr. Chamisa.

Since the results of the polls so far have varied, it is difficult to use them as a guide for who might win the presidency.

Human rights activists also claim that Zanu-PF has used a series of strategies to remain in power in the past, such as state media blackouts, violence and intimidation, and negative coverage of the opposition. In the past, Zanu-PF has denied employing illegal tactics against its opponents.

Meanwhile, the cost-of-living crisis continues to be at the core of voters’ concerns, with the last three years having been some of the worst in a decade. In the 12 months leading up to May this year, prices rose by 86.5%, one of the highest annual inflation rates in the world.

In the meantime, businesses are struggling to cope with crippling power outages and an unstable local currency, which lost 86% of its value between January and early June.

Allegations of corruption also remain a source of frustration, with a very low rate of prosecution. During the Covid pandemic, equipment was allegedly procured at inflated prices – the health minister was fired but then exonerated by the courts.

The Voting Process:
For candidates for members of parliament and council, the election is won by the person with the most votes, or first-past-the-post.

However, in the presidential race, a candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote to be declared the winner; otherwise, a run-off election will be held between the top two candidates.

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The presidential election results must be released within five days of the end of voting, as required by law. However, opposition groups and civil society organizations doubt that polls will be free or fair. They cite what they claim to be a systemic crackdown on critics of the government.

Mr. Chamisa, the leader of the CCC, claims that during the by-elections last year, more than 60 of the party’s meetings were either banned or disrupted by police, raising concerns that this will happen again.

Jonathan Moyo, a former politician in Zimbabwe, stated that Zanu-PF will not “reform itself out of power.”

Five years ago, the president won the first round with 50.8% of the vote. However, on election day, security forces opened fire on protesters, killing six people.

The EU, for instance, noted major flaws, such as the misuse of state resources in favor of the incumbent, but observers generally praised the relative peace on election day and freedom of movement during the campaign.

The EU claimed that the Electoral Commission’s final results contained numerous errors.

After arguing that the presidential and parliamentary vote totals were off by tens of thousands, Mr. Chamisa’s party’s legal challenge to overturn the result was unsuccessful.

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