Seventy Percent Of Zimbabweans Want 2011 Elections – Poll

Seventy percent of Zimbabweans want elections this year, but less than half the electorate believes the country's next polls will be free and fair, a survey said on Wednesday.

One in seven also feared election campaign intimidation or violence, which characterised the country’s disputed 2008 vote, amid slipping confidence in the unity government set up to steer Zimbabwe out of crisis.

The Afrobarometer survey, which questioned 1,192 citizens nationwide in October last year, said Zimbabweans view the power-sharing pact as a temporary measure with more than two-thirds saying elections should be held this year.

"That seven in ten would-be voters are anxious to freely elect leaders of their choice, even in an atmosphere where security forces and party militias are again on the move, is testament to the impressive depth of Zimbabweans’ commitments to political rights," said the survey.

Veteran President Robert Mugabe, whom 68 percent of people polled believe holds most or all power, is pushing for elections in 2011 which will end an uneasy ruling pact with rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Only 14 percent of respondents believed power was shared equally and even less, six percent, said Tsvangirai was in charge.

Tsvangirai has conceded that a presidential election could take place in 2011, but ruled out parliamentary polls until 2013.

While two thirds felt the unity government was doing a good job, there was a 21 percent drop in perception that it was performing well or very well.

"The honeymoon in public opinion following the introduction of the coalition government in February 2009 is over," said the survey.

Against a context of recurrent political threats, Afrobarometer found 71 percent feared election campaign violence or intimidation and fewer people felt free to speak, associate and vote.

"Instead, confidence in democratic liberties is being gradually replaced by a resurgence of political fear," it said.

Thirty-two percent of people would not reveal their party preference and less than half (46 percent) believed the next polls would be free and fair.

In March 2008, Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in presidential polls but fell short of the required majority resulting in a run-off ballot which he refused to take part in, citing violence against his supporters. Mugabe won unopposed.

The Afrobarometer survey is produced by social scientists from 20 African countries.

Sapa-AFP