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Confidence Flags in Zimbabwe Ahead of First Post-Mugabe Vote

by Grant Buckles
Confidence Flags in Zimbabwe Ahead of First Post-Mugabe Vote

Story Highlights

  • 47% of Zimbabweans confident in the honesty of elections
  • Confidence in national government down since Mugabe's exit
  • 68% perceive corruption to be widespread within government

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ahead of Zimbabwe's first election since longtime President Robert Mugabe was ousted last year, less than half of residents (47%) are confident in the honesty of their elections. Though this figure has declined somewhat in recent years, the current level of confidence is the highest Gallup has recorded in the runup to a general election in Zimbabwe.

Line graph: Less than half of Zimbabweans confident in honesty of their elections (47% in 2018).

These findings from a Gallup World Poll survey conducted in Zimbabwe in May and June highlight lingering concerns about key institutions despite Mugabe's departure. Mugabe, who resigned in 2017 after a military takeover, was succeeded by his Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa -- who is running in this election. Mnangagwa's approval rating stands at 53%. This is higher than Mugabe's (44%) during what would be his final re-election campaign in 2013 but lower than the former president's approval rating in his last year in office (69%).

After years of international sanctions under Mugabe, Mnangagwa has tried to re-establish ties to the West. For instance, Zimbabwe is permitting election observers from the European Union, who have been banned for the past 16 years. However, this international outreach seems to have done little to shore up domestic confidence in electoral integrity.

While the major opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, has been able to campaign more freely than in past elections, it has already made a number of allegations against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. These complaints include issues with the availability and quality of the electoral roll, as well as the printing and design of the ballot papers. Additionally, a grenade attack during a Mnangagwa campaign rally has raised concerns about election violence.

Zimbabwe has long experienced poor assessments of its electoral process, from international and domestic audiences alike. Most notably, only 10% of Zimbabweans had confidence in the honesty of their elections before the contentious 2008 elections, which were marred by election violence, intimidation and allegations of fraud. While confidence has rebounded since this historical low, concerns remain among many Zimbabweans.

Assessments of Government Decline After Mugabe's Exit

The national government has also failed to garner more confidence since Mugabe left office. While a majority of Zimbabweans (53%) express confidence in the national government, this is down 15 percentage points from 2017. This period overlaps the military takeover and the continued infighting among those in the ruling party after Mugabe's ouster.

Line graph: Zimbabweans' confidence in national government declines to 53% (2018).

Furthermore, most Zimbabweans continue to view corruption as widespread within the national government. Currently, 68% say corruption is widespread; though this figure is below levels seen during much of Mugabe's tenure, it has trended upward from a historical low of 55% in 2016.

Line graph: Perceptions of widespread corruption persist in Zimbabwe: 68% say it is widespread throughout the government (2018).

Overall, Zimbabweans' assessments of their national government are slightly more negative after Mugabe's exit and do not exhibit any drastic shifts after a change in the country's leadership. The national government under Mnangagwa, who was a long-serving cabinet member and vice president under Mugabe, has been unable to reverse negative perceptions of the national government ahead of the 2018 election.

Implications

The general election on Monday is crucial -- and unique -- for Zimbabwe. For the first time since 1980, Mugabe's name does not appear on the ballot. Long-time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had contested every presidential election since 2002 as the primary challenger to Mugabe, passed away earlier this year.

Instead, the election features first-time presidential contenders and a record-breaking number of candidates -- 23. This will lead to a greater chance of a runoff and, with it, a higher degree of uncertainty. The finding that Zimbabweans are more confident in the integrity of the process than they have been in past elections is good news for those hoping to avoid a repeat of previous election-related conflicts.

More striking, however, are the results showing that a change in leadership has been insufficient to restore confidence in key institutions in Zimbabwe. Overall, Zimbabweans have less confidence in the honesty of elections and the national government after Mugabe's exit and are more likely to perceive widespread corruption within government. These findings suggest that institutional reform takes time and, more broadly, that replacing long-serving leaders with party insiders does little to boost citizen confidence.

While these trends may reflect a willingness on Zimbabweans' part to be more honest when responding to surveys in the post-Mugabe era, they have historically shown a strong willingness to be highly critical of their government. Instead, it seems more likely that greater numbers of Zimbabweans are exhibiting concern about the performance of their national government.

Survey Methods

These results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in Zimbabwe May 19-June 14, 2018, in English, Shone, and Ndebele. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/238034/confidence-flags-zimbabwe-ahead-first-post-mugabe-vote.aspx
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