The decision by a faction of Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to contest in March elections is generating controversy. This comes after unity talks between the Arthur Mutambara faction and that of Morgan Tsvangirai reached a deadlock with no resolution on a single presidential candidate ahead of next month’s vote. Mutambara’s faction is now accusing Tsvangirai’s group of making unreasonable demands, declaring that it will participate in the elections.
Political observers believe the Mutambara faction’s determination to participate would not only weaken the position of Tsvangirai’s group, but would also help lead President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government to victory. From the capital, Harare, political science Professor John Makumbe of the university of Zimbabwe tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Mugabe will win this year’s elections.
“First of all it is obvious that any opposition political party participating in this election will be legitimizing the Mugabe regime. It will be essentially cleaning the Mugabe regime up because it will obviously lose the elections. Under the current constitution, only Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF will win the election,” Makumbe noted.
He said although Mutambara’s faction instigated the separation from the main opposition MDC, both should have an equal shot at the elections.
“I think the Mutambara faction were the ones who broke away from the Tsvangirai faction, and the two factions should just go into these elections if they decide to participate as two separate formations, and may the best formation win. I think it’s only fair. I think it’s the right thing. The people of Zimbabwe must be allowed to choose between ZANU-PF and any other party, and to choose between the Tsvangirai faction and the Mutambara faction,” he said.
Makumbe concurs that the breakdown of unity talks between the two opposition factions led to Mutambara’s decision to declare its intentions of participating in next month’s general elections.
“It is largely because the demands from the Morgan Tsvangirai faction would have actually weakened the Mutambara faction even further. But it is also true that the Mutambara faction is a small group of mainly academics, but also a few people from the labor movement. But we are in a very weak position and if they don’t participate, they will really just become totally irrelevant. The Tsvangirai faction can actually refuse to participate and still remain a powerhouse of opposition in all future political dealings and developments in Zimbabwe,” Makumbe pointed out.
He said Zimbabweans will make up their minds as the election draws near.
“I think the people are going to review their attitude towards the Mutambara faction if the Morgan Tsvangirai faction decides to boycott, while the Mutambara faction decides as it has done, to go it alone and participate. I think there are going to be more people who are going to move out of the Mutambara faction, who are going to stop supporting the Mutambara faction because virtually all Zimbabweans know that under the current constitution, participating in these elections will simply be legitimizing the Mugabe regime, without a hope of a chance for any opposition to win. And so I think the support for the Mutambara faction is going to be eroded quite severely as a result of their participation in this election,” he noted.