That Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF was able to win the March 2005 Parliamentary Election, despite the massive economic decline under its governance, seems to defy logic and invites an investigation as to whether the election was fair, whether people were able to cast their vote freely over the voting period, and whether the announced results accurately reflected the vote.
The first issue of “fairness” was largely canvassed in the Human Rights NGO Forum’s report on the pre-election period, which found that the pre-election conditions were not conducive to a free and fair election. In examining the other issues, it is necessary to look at the electoral process and to analyze the polling figures for any indication of rigging. A common thread that runs through all the various pieces of legislation that establish and regulate the electoral process in Zimbabwe, is that those responsible for its implementation and supervision are almost all either selected by government or subject to government interference and influence.
In the 2005 election this was manifested by the presence in the electoral process of military personnel, or personnel with a military background, with, in addition, a significant influence being exerted by a partisan police force. The result was that in many instances procedures were flouted entirely and with impunity. When procedures were followed, they were often implemented in a partisan or anomalous manner. This led to opportunities for rigging the vote and a suspicious electorate.
However, an analysis of voting figures by polling station suggests that if there was any stuffing of ballot boxes, it was not significant enough to affect the result. More people turned out to vote for ZANU-PF than the MDC. The reason for this is to be found in the pre-electoral conditions. In drought prone Zimbabwe, the threat to withhold famine relief is a powerful weapon. Rather than employing the macro and endemic intimidation that characterized the previous two elections, ZANU-PF intimidated at the micro level. Having increased the power of traditional leaders by giving them influence in the distribution of food and land and having secured their sympathies through largesse, these leaders were deployed to ensure that villagers voted and voted favourably. The voter turn out in the rural areas was significantly higher than in urban areas. This strategy was combined with a relentless campaign to portray the opposition and its supporters as responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic decline and as enemies of the State. The opposition had little opportunity to counteract this. Following the election period, the threats made prior to the election were implemented. Food aid was withheld. People suspected of voting for the opposition were assaulted and driven from their villages.