Hottest election ever?

For the first time since 1980, Mr Robert Mugabe might not only be missing from the ballot paper, but from the whole voting process.

As millions across the country turn out tomorrow, the question that might be on many people’s mind might be: Will Mr Mugabe make the trek to Highfield, his traditional voting venue?

And if he makes the journey, many might be wondering who he is going to vote for. Will he spite President Emmerson Mnangagwa? Was the rumour mill correct in suggesting that Mr Mugabe has switched allegiance to Mr Nelson Chamisa? Has he dumped the NPF project, a party born in his Blue Roof House?

Also of interest will be where President Mnangagwa will be casting his vote. Will he travel to his rural home? Will he vote in Harare?

And after voting, people might wonder what does the President get to do? Does he continue with his State duties? Does he go to his farm and wait for the result, just like anybody else?

Equally intriguing is where Vice President Constantino Chiwenga will cast his vote. And what will occupy his diary soon after casting his vote?

Across the political divide, will Mr Chamisa return to Kuwadzana, where he was previously Member of Parliament, and cast his vote? Or he has changed constituencies?

The question that might be uppermost on most people’s minds is, being a Presidential candidate, thus a national figure, does one vote anywhere they please? But since our election is polling station-based, they should be registered to a particular station where they will also chose their councillor and MP.

Whilst there are 210 constituencies which are being fought for tomorrow, that is the House of Assembly seats, there are some constituencies whose outcomes will be greatly anticipated by the whole nation.

Probably the pick of these has to be Norton, where a battle royal is likely to be fought. The heavyweights in this fight are Zanu-PF’s Chris Mutsvangwa, independent Themba Mliswa and the MDC Alliance’s Samuel Matemere.

Mliswa won the seat in a by-election last time and his win then was apportioned to the upheavals that were ongoing in Zanu-PF. The question on everyone’s lips is whether he will be able to bulldoze his way past the fire-brand Mutsvangwa. And with the constituency including urban Norton, how significant will be that vote in favour of the Alliance?

But if Mliswa were to lose the Norton seat, he might find some solace if his sister were to land the Hurungwe West seat, which he “bequeathed” to her. Mary Mliswa (Zanu-PF) will be facing the MDC Alliance’s Wilson Makanyaire, plus three other candidates.

Further north of Norton, Harare West has held the country’s imagination for quite some time. Jessie Majome, the sitting MP, was sidelined in the MDC Alliance’s primaries, of which Joanne Mamombe was seconded to run on the party’s ticket. There are many who have sympathised with Majome’s situation, yet there are some who have argued that she has had enough time in Parliament — 10 years — and should leave for younger blood to take over.

Whether this circus will work in the favour of Zanu-PF’s George Mashavave, Tuesday we will get to know.

Just like Norton, Harare East will also see some titanic fights, with Zanu-PF’s Terrence Mukupe coming up against the MDC Alliance’s Tendai Biti and MDC-T’s Obert Gutu plus a sprinkling of independents and three other fringe parties.

Fadzayi Mahere, heading the “yellow campaign”, will be very much on the radar as she is taking on Zanu-PF’s Jaison Passade, Warship Dumba of the MDC-T and Samuel Banda of the MDC Alliance.

The outcome of this seat will be interesting in more than one way: what is the view of the electorate when faced with an independent candidate? And a female independent candidate? Does the electorate consider party affiliation when voting?

Uzumba, a traditional Zanu-PF stronghold, has always been in the news for the large voter turn-outs — will the party faithful keep to their history and vote overwhelmingly? Tellingly, Uzumba is one of only two constituencies where only two parties will be contesting, the other being Chiredzi East.

In Uzumba, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa of Zanu-PF will battle it out with the MDC Alliance’s Peckson Kazingizi.

Far from the madding crowd, another seat that will be eyed will be Tsholotsho North, left vacant by run-away Professor Jonathan Moyo. Over the years, dating back to the 2000 elections, Professor Moyo had made the constituency his own. Who will take over from him?

In Guruve South, there will be a battle pitting independent Wilbert Mubaiwa and Zanu-PF’s Patrick Dutiro. Mubaiwa has been making political somersaults over the past two years, moving from Joyce Mujuru’s outfit, where he was national treasurer, to wanting to run on a Zanu-PF ticket.

He was barred from running in the primaries and opted to run as an independent candidate. Many observers will be waiting to check if Guruve South, a constituency in Mashonaland Central, a Zanu-PF stronghold, will vote for an independent.

Dangamvura-Chikanga will provide another hotspot, with partly expired musician Hosiah Chipanga running as an independent candidate against Zanu-PF’s Isau Mupfumi, the MDC-T’s Lynette Mudehwe and the MDC Alliance’s Prosper Mutseyami.

Will the hoarse voice of Hosiah Chipanga convince the people of Dangamvura-Chikanga that he has what it takes to represent them in Parliament?

Magwegwe in Bulawayo has the highest number of candidates in the whole country. At 22, how will these candidates share the votes? How many votes will the winner garner? And will the losing one(s) get anything?

Whilst many analysts have been quick to apportion provinces to either Zanu-PF or the MDC Alliance, this election might be too close to call.

Traditionally, Mashonaland Central, East and West, Matebeleland South have voted for Zanu-PF, leaving the MDC Alliance in control of the two urban provinces, Harare and Bulawayo as well as Matebeleland North. Which leaves Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland as the swing provinces.

But in actual fact, the swing votes will belong to the minority communities: whites, coloureds and Indians. In previous elections, these communities were largely overlooked and this time around their voices — and numbers — might be crucial in determining the outcome of the national vote.

The other swing vote will come from the church — a big constituency in itself. How and for who will the church vote for? The country being a predominantly Christian nation, how will the thousands of churches across the country contribute to the national vote?

In previous elections, there was a temptation to divide the vote into either the urban or rural vote, the country has since moved from that pedestrian description. Previously, some rural areas were no-go areas for the opposition, but this is no longer the case.

Similarly, some urban areas, particularly Harare and Bulawayo, had been declared no-go areas for Zanu-PF but the multitudes that have been attending the party’s campaign rallies have been testimony that there has been some shift.

Whether that shift has seismic, only the results from tomorrow’s defining election will tell.

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