Zimbabwe’s military unexpectedly ousted President Robert Mugabe in late 2017, nearly four decades after he took power. Debilitating internal factionalism within the ruling Zanu-PF party over succession to Mugabe has culminated in the elevation of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the helm. He has promised to break with the past as he endeavours to navigate a much needed economic recovery. Prospects for promoting a new more inclusive political culture are less certain. Credible elections in 2018 could be a vital stepping stone toward a peaceful democratic transition, but they also pose a challenge to Zimbabwe’s weak institutions. Through research and analysis, Crisis Group sheds light on obstacles to a smooth, credible electoral process leading up to 2018. We help relevant actors nationally and internationally to buttress the likelihood of peaceful elections and democratic transition.

CrisisWatch Zimbabwe

Unchanged Situation

Tensions simmered ahead of general elections scheduled for August as authorities continued to harass opposition and advanced bill curtailing political freedoms.

Opposition protested bill curtailing political freedoms.Both houses of parliament 31 May-7 June passed Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill criminalising “willfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”. In response, main opposition party Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) described bill as “dangerous and unconstitutional”, said it was designed to punish citizens, civil society organisations and political adversaries of ruling ZANU-PF party ahead of general elections due in August. NGO Amnesty International 9 June denounced “disturbing crackdown on Zimbabweans’ rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”, and called on President Mnangagwa not to sign bill into law.

Authorities continued to stifle dissent. Security forces 2 June detained five CCC activists, including one candidate for upcoming elections, following altercation with suspected ruling ZANU-PF party supporters at voter registration centre in Midlands region; all five remanded in custody next day on various charges including assault. Authorities 12 June charged 39 CCC supporters with political violence for allegedly attacking ZANU-PF office in Nyatsime locality, just south of capital Harare in Mashonaland East region.

Final list of presidential candidates disclosed. Electoral authority 22 June said 11 candidates will run for presidency in August, including Mnangagwa, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, and exiled former ruling party official Saviour Kasukuwere.

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