Cape Town — As Zimbabweans begin to look ahead to next year's elections, a survey of public opinion shows that only half the country has confidence in the country's electoral commission.
Afrobarometer reports in a newly-published analysis that only one in four Zimbabweans say they trust the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) "a lot". Another quarter say they trust it "somewhat".
In the survey, carried out early this year, the other half of respondents were negative or didn't express an opinion - 19 percent said they trusted the ZEC "just a little" and 22 percent said "not at all".
However, surveys since 1999 show that confidence in the commission has improved since its worst level in 2004, when only three in 10 Zimbabweans trusted it.
The ZEC is appointed by the president and has often been accused of bias and incompetence, Afrobarometer reports. Its analysis shows that the commission will have to work particularly hard to gain the trust of better-educated Zimbabweans, younger people and urban residents - among whom fewer than half of respondents trust it "somewhat" or "a lot".
"Geographically, trust varies sharply," Afrobarometer adds, "The ZEC commands the greatest trust amongst residents in Masvingo (67 percent) and Midlands (65 percent) provinces, while fewer than half as many residents trust the commission even 'somewhat' in the Bulawayo metropolitan province (28 percent)."
Of all the countries in Southern Africa, only Zambians and Mozambicans trust their electoral commissions less than Zimbabweans, the survey also shows.
And while nearly two in three Zimbabweans trust the army at least somewhat, the overwhelming majority reject military rule (69 percent), one-man rule (78 percent) or one-party rule (65 percent). Three of every four prefer democracy over any other system.