BULAWAYO – A survey by the Mass Public Opinion Institute (Mpoi) and Afrobarometer has predicted a closely-contested presidential race between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa that seems to point towards a run-off.
Conducted between April 28 and May 13, the survey predicts that Mnangagwa, aged 75, could get 42 percent of the vote, while Chamisa, who turned 40 on February 2, could garner 31 percent.
The rest of the other presidential candidates could collectively garner two percent of the vote.
The statics reveal the possibility of a run-off since there will not be an outright winner between the two nemeses, who lock horns for the first time on July 30.
Chamisa assumed the contested leadership of the MDC after the party’s founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, died on February 14, after a long battle with colon cancer.
His rival, Mnangagwa, piggy-backed his way up on the military, which dislodged former president Robert Mugabe last November through a soft-coup.
In the event that the poll, the first to be held without Mugabe in the running, fails to produce a clear winner, Mnangagwa has already set September 8 as the date for the run-off.
According to the Constitution, the winner must get 50 percent plus one vote and above.
In their survey, Mpoi and Afrobarometer noted that the voting intentions of 25 percent of the respondents were unknown.
This category might, in due course, determine the winner.
“Among voters willing to declare their preferences in the presidential race, Zanu PF held a 42 percent to 31 percent lead over the MDC Alliance but the intentions of one-fourth of voters remained unknown,” reads part of the findings presented yesterday by Mpoi principal researcher, Steven Ndoma.
The survey had a sample size of 2 399 adult citizens.
A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of plus or minus two percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
The survey also sought to find out what respondents felt about the November 2017 military intervention.
Four in 10 Zimbabweans (41 percent) fully endorsed the military intervention while a majority (52 percent) said it was wrong.
Forty percent of the respondents described it as a wrong but necessary move and only 12 percent said it was wrong.
In its conclusion, the survey found that despite widespread support or acceptance of the military intervention, large majorities rejected military rule and any regular role of the military in the country’s politics.
It was also noted that the views on the military intervention varied considerably by province but only modestly by party affiliation.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts research network on public attitude, surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions and related issues in African countries.
It conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.
The latest survey comes hard on the heels of a controversial opinion poll by Zanu PF propagandist, Nyekorach Matsanga, of the Pan-African Forum Limited (PAFL).
PAFL claimed last week that Mnangagwa would win 70 percent of the vote if elections were held now, while Chamisa would only win 24 percent of the vote.
Yesterday, another controversial opinion poll by Trends and Insights for Africa gave Mnangagwa 68,5 percent of the vote against Chamisa’s 19,5 percent.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said the Mpoi and Afrobarometer survey showed that more Zimbabweans were feeling comfortable to share their opinions on political preferences unlike before, which is a positive development.
Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said a reversal of the downward slide in overt support for the MDC affirmed the party’s central relevance in the political arena.
He added that the survey also demonstrated the resilience of Zanu PF in retaining major support amongst some of its key constituencies, despite presiding over economic and social chaos.
“This may well reflect a depth of belief that Mnangagwa can pilot the recovery,” said Pigou.
Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, said a lot may have changed, which might influence voting trends, among the changes being the passing on of Tsvangirai and the rise of “typhoon Chamisa”.
“A lot may have also changed when people realised after 100 days that Mnangagwa’s new dawn was a mere extension of Mugabe’s 37 years and false dawn. The emergence of Mugabe’s National Patriotic Front and its aligning to MDC Alliance is another a factor that may change numbers,” said Saungweme.
“The launch of party manifestos, especially the MDC-T SMART document today may also change the voting numbers in a very big way. If anything, the survey is helpful to the MDC-T not to be complacent but work hard to get a definitive win. The MDC Alliance needs to win by a large number to debunk rigging”.
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said the 25 percent of the respondents whose voting intentions were unknown was obviously a large percentage.
“Unless the poll was as detailed as the exercise conducted by Professor Susan Boyson before the last elections — and I imagine that would not have been the case — there is no real way of attributing shares of that 25 percent to the different parties,” said Chan.
“Having said that, the president should really have called a snap election shortly after he assumed office. Since then, all the bold words have faded somewhat and there is a sense of disenchantment — especially at continuing reports of faction fighting within Zanu PF, confirming feelings that the party regards itself as more important than the welfare of the nation.”
Chan said the biggest disappointment was probably the failure of the anti-corruption drive.
He said the public would have been happier with Mnangagwa if he had made sacrificial lambs of two or three big names.
“That he didn’t again suggests that the party factions are too big for him. He can’t offer sacrificial lambs now, as it would smack of an election stunt. However, Mnangagwa and Zanu PF should still win — although Chamisa could force a run-off in the presidential race. That would be excellent for democracy in Zimbabwe if they went head-to-head US style, with televised debates and the full public panoply of a proper contest,” said Chan.
“As for 62 percent thinking the country is going in the wrong direction, this is very much Mnangagwa promising so much and not being able to deliver fast enough — but no one could have. Zimbabwe has barked so long at the outside world that other countries, even if they want to re-engage, are cautious. It is well to remember that the economy was ruined so much by Mugabe and by Zanu PF that, in my estimate, it will take more than seven years before consolidated recovery is achieved.”