Movement for Democratic Change campaign coordinator Ian Makone told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that the party could win as many as 85 of the 120 elected seats in the 2005 elections.
He said 40 seats were safe and another 45 were marginal and could go either way.
He, however, said the election playing field would have to be level for the MDC to in 85 seats.
Realistically, though, the MDC hoped to win 60 seats.
Makoni said even the low end of 40 seats would be a success in the sense of consolidating the tradition of a significant opposition presence in Zimbabwe’s parliament.
Ed: The party won 41 seats.
Viewing cable 04HARARE2036, MDC OFFICIALS ON ELECTION PLANS, INTER-PARTY
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002036
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2009
SUBJECT: MDC OFFICIALS ON ELECTION PLANS, INTER-PARTY
REF: HARARE 1562
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher W. Dell under Section 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: During a lunch at the Residence on December
8, MDC National Campaign Coordinator Ian Makoni and MDC MP
(Mutare) Innocent Gonese updated the Ambassador on MDC
election plans and inter-party relations. They reported that
the MDC was better organized than it had been in previous
elections and was exploiting gradually opening campaign
space. The pair asserted that the opposition could win 85 of
the 120 seats under the best of circumstances, that 60 would
be a practical victory, and that 40 would likely be the low
end absent massive fraud. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) According to Makoni, the MDC’s election strategy had
four pillars: (1) pressure for free and fair elections; (2)
preparation for the elections; (3) campaigning; and (4)
securing the vote. He asserted that the party had learned
lessons from previous elections, when it had underestimated
the extent to which the ruling party would rig the election.
This year the party would likely eschew street action in
favor of focusing on the polling station. He acknowledged
that International Republican Institute representatives who
were working with the party were disappointed not to see more
visible activism, but stressed the importance of grassroots
electoral organization, which was “almost done.” Gonese added
that full access to the media was the potential key to an MDC
success in the elections.
¶3. (C) Makoni reported that the opposition was much better
organized than it had been for the national parliamentary
elections in 2000 or the presidential election in 2002. This
would be the first time the party had structures all the way
down to the village level. The party previously relied
largely on establishing an emotional connection with the
electorate; now it had recognized individuals who could
engage on a personal level in practically every community.
This would be especially important on election day if the
party hoped to counter an intimidating ZANU-PF presence at
many polling stations. In this vein, Makoni reported that
MDC voters would be encouraged to remain at polling stations
after they had voted — a safety-in-numbers strategy. The
party nonetheless still needed to develop more street-level
structures analogous to the ZANU-PF cells. The two conceded
that there were frictions within the opposition but
maintained that Morgan Tsvangirai continued to enjoy broad
and deep support throughout the party.
¶4. (C) The pair confirmed that the party was continuing to
see more campaign space in some areas (a trend noted three
months ago in reftel). Police were being more responsive to
applications for meetings and were suppressing violence in
some areas on a non-partisan basis. Chiefs and war veterans
in certain areas were actively contributing to a lowering of
temperatures, and party supporters were wearing MDC T-shirts
in areas previously regarded as “no-go” zones. No-go areas
remained and intimidation continued to be a significant
obstacle but party structures were alert to exploit space as
¶5. (C) Makoni and Gonese ruminated on their party’s
prospects for the March parliamentary elections. Makoni said
he considered 40 seats “safe” for the MDC and another 45
“marginal” seats that could go either way. (N.B. Leaving 35
safe seats for ZANU-PF.) He said for the opposition to win
85 seats the election playing field would have to be level.
Realistically, the MDC hoped to get 60 seats — half the 120
contested seats (30 more seats are appointed by the
President) — which would be a significant moral and
practical victory. If the party were able to win an outright
majority of the seats, it would not change the actual
imbalance of power given the executive’s dominant authority
under the constitution, but it could force ZANU-PF to deal
with the MDC. Even the low end of 40 seats would be a
success in the sense of consolidating the tradition of a
signficant opposition presence in Zimbabwe’s parliament.
Speculating on Ruling Party Intentions
¶6. (C) Asked to comment on ruling party intentions, the pair
dismissed the possibility that the GOZ would conduct
by-elections to fill the seats recently vacated by MDC MP
Stanley Makwembebe’s death and MDC MP Roy Bennett’s
incarceration. (Note: If won by ZANU-PF, the two seats would
give it a 2/3 majority in Parliament — sufficient to amend
the constitution on its own. End note.) Bennett was
appealing and there was insufficient time to give adequate
legal notice and conduct the elections in any event,
especially given the ruling party’s absorption with its
legislative agenda and primaries. Moreover, ZANU-PF was
confident it would win a 2/3 majority in the March election
and planned to engineer the constitutional amendment then.
¶7. (C) Makoni noted the convergence of interests within
ZANU-PF for a new constitution and prospects for Mugabe to
step down. The new constitution was expected to require that
a Vice-President assume the Presidency for the remainder of
the President’s term if he stepped down, instead of requiring
a national election within 90 days as stipulated by the
current constitution. This essentially would permit Mugabe
to have his chosen successor remain in office for an extended
period, rather than submit to the uncertainty or potential
divisiveness of an immediate election. Makoni speculated
that Mugabe would then run in 2008, only to step down quickly
in favor of a presumably trusted successor to hold office
(and protect him) until 2014.
¶8. (C) The pair expressed little doubt that Mugabe would be
able to hold his party together for the foreseeable future,
notwithstanding the very real divisions exposed in the run-up
to the ZANU-PF Party Congress. They forecast that many of
the upcoming ZANU-PF primaries would be tense, not so much
over tribal issues as intense personal rivalries.
¶9. (C) The substance and tenor of the pair’s remarks give
every indication that the MDC will eventually end its
“conditional suspension of participation” in the March
elections. Re-entry into the race poses some interesting
challenges to the opposition, though. Given its stated
condition for re-entry — a level playing field — re-entry
risks conferring some implicit degree of legitimacy on
ZANU-PF’s superficial measures to address electoral
imbalances. At the same time, the ruling party shows growing
signs of wanting the MDC in the election so as to confer
legitimacy, so re-entry is a substantive political chit (one
of the few that the MDC holds) for which the MDC will want to
derive maximum payment. Re-entry also will technically
qualify the MDC for access to the state media pursuant to
SADC electoral principles and guidelines to which the GOZ has
subscribed. Finally, officially rejoining the race and
campaigning more vigorously may provoke an increase in
political violence that so far has remained below historical
levels associated with elections. The party’s national
executive reportedly will meet this weekend to reconsider its