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Archive for October, 2007

Two thirds support the status quo?

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Monday, October 8th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

If there was a bit more food in the shops and a bit more hope for times ahead, I wouldn’t have been quite so surprised to learn that almost two-thirds of Zimbabweans surveyed across the country intend to vote for Zanu PF in next year’s election, as compared with 35% for the Morgan Tsvangirai MDC, and 2% for the Arthur Mutambara MDC.

This is the surprising revelation of The Zimbabwe electoral process and attendant issues: the voter’ views, the recent summary report of the Mass Public Opinion Institutes’s survey of voters across Zimbabwe.

The survey asked people a range of questions, including whether they thought voting was important, if they had registered to vote, and who they might vote for in next year’s elections.

Granted, it’s difficult to make any conclusive analysis from this survey finding. How does one assess opinion or predict trends when 83% of the population intends to vote in the election, but only 51% of them claim to have decided what party they might vote for.

This large percent of self-professed “undecideds” isn’t a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe. We’ve seen it often over the past seven years with voters claiming they are undecided or “don’t know.” Typically, the opposition interprets an undecided as someone who doesn’t trust the survey recorder, or is sympathetic to the opposition but fearful of the consequences of that, and so declines to reveal their opinion.

But it’s dangerous to assume that all 51% of those undecideds are going to vote for one of the two MDC formations. And if even some of those who say they haven’t yet made up their minds really don’t know, or are leaning towards voting for the ruling party, the MDC needs to rethink its confident assertion that it has the support of the people, and needs only a free and fair election to prove it.

Regardless of the science and speculation of polling, we need politicians who are willing to take risks, think creatively, roll up their sleeves and take on the challenge of genuinely leading people out of the mess we’re currently in. Statistics and numbers can tell one story. But we need to be spending more time with the meandering, intricate tales of what’s on people’s minds, what’s in our hearts, what we dream of for the future, and how we hope to get there.