The '2008 General elections were held in Zimbabwe on 29 March 2008 with the purpose of electing the President and Parliament/Legislators. It was expected that with the economic decline in Zimbabwe would provide the incumbent President Robert Mugabe with his toughest electoral challenge since assuming office in 1980.Mugabe's opponents were critical of the handling of the electoral process , and the ruling party Zanu-PF was accused of plotting to rig the election .Human rights watch alluded that the election was likely to be deeply flawed.

Official results were not announced for more than a month after the first round of the election.The failure to release the results within the required time frame was strongly criticized by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change,which unsecccessfully sought an order from the High Court to force the release of the results.An independent projection placed its leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the lead , but without the majority needed to avoid a rerun , whilst the MDC declared that Tsvangirai won a narrow majority in the first round and initially refused to participate in any second round.[1].After the recount and the verification of the results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced on 2 May that Tsvangirai won 47.9% of the vote and Mugabe 43.2%, necessitating a run-off,which was to be held on 27 June 2008.Despite Tsvangirai's continuing claims to have won a first round majority, he decided to participate in the second round.The period following the first round was marked by political violence. ZANU-PF and the MDC each blamed the other's supporters for perpetrating the violence; Western governments and prominent Western organisations blamed Zanu-PF for the violence.[2]

On 22 June 2008, Tsvangirai announced that he was withdrawing from the run-off, describing it as a "violent sham" and saying that his supporters risked being killed if they voted for him.The second round of elections went ahead with Mugabe as the only actively participating candidate, although Tsvangirai's name remained on the ballot. Mugabe won the second round by an overwhelming margin and was sworn in for another term as President on 29 June.

In the Parliamentary elections Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front Zanu-PF lost its majority in the House of Assembly for the first time since independence in 1980, as the two factions of the MDC won most of the seats.

Background

In late 2006 a plan was proposed that would have delayed the elections to 2010, at the same time as the next parliamentary election, which was said to be a cost-saving measure. This would have lengthened President Mugabe's term by two years. However, there was reportedly dissent within the ruling ZANU-PF regarding the proposal, and it was never approved. In March 2007, Mugabe said that he thought the feeling in the party favoured having the presidential election in 2008, and moving the parliamentary election up by two years instead. He also said that he would be willing to stand for another term if chosen by the party.On 30 March 2007, it was announced that the ZANU-PF Central Committee had chosen Mugabe as the party's candidate for another term in 2008, that presidential terms would be reduced to five years instead of six, and that the parliamentary election would also be held in 2008. Later, information was leaked from the same meeting that ZANU-PF had adopted the position of making Mugabe president-for-life.[3]On 25 January 2008, the date of the election was announced as 29 March. A spokesperson for the faction of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai denounced this as "an act of madness and arrogance",while the leader of the other MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, said that a free and fair election could not be held under the existing conditions, calling for a new constitution to be adopted prior to the election.Talks between the MDC and ZANU-PF collapsed following the announcement of the election date; the MDC had wanted the dialogue to affect the election, while ZANU-PF wanted to hold the election on schedule in March and for any changes agreed in the talks only to take effect afterwards.


Electoral System

President

The amendment to the Electoral Act in 2005 meant that for the first time a presidential aspirant was required to win a majority vote ,introducing a second round if need be.

There were about 5.9 million registered voters. and about 11,000 polling stations, compared to about 4,000 polling stations in the 2005 parliamentary election. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network said that there were insufficient polling stations in urban areas, where the opposition is considered stronger, while the availability of polling stations was better in rural areas, where ZANU-PF is considered stronger. According to the Electoral Commission, it planned to deploy 107,690 polling officers to oversee voting.

The Public Holidays and Prohibition of Business Notice 2008, published on 17 March, declared 29 March to be a public holiday. This was accompanied by the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act) (No. 2) Regulations, 2008, which allows police to enter polling stations. This ended a previous law, put in place in 2007 as a result of talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC, that required police to stay 100 meters away from polling stations.The regulations amended Sections 59 and 60 of the Electoral Act, providing for electoral officers and police officers to assist illiterate voters (in the case of Section 59) and physically incapacitated voters (in the case of Section 60).[29] The change was criticised by Tsvangirai and Makoni.
  1. [ https://web.archive.org/web/20080613194000/http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/B700CF63-FECD-4FAD-8112-48FC55D34BA4.htm], Zimbabwean Opposition rejects run-off:April 10 2008, Retrieved: 28 November 2017
  2. [1], 12 violent MDC supporters held, Published: 27 May 2008, Retrieved: 28 November 2017
  3. [ http://www.irinnews.org/news/2007/07/30/zanu-pf-wants-make-mugabe-president-life], ZANU-PF wants to make Mugabe president for life , Published: 30 July 2007 , Retrieved:28 November 2017