Polarization and Party-Building in Zimbabwe

Adrienne LeBas

in From Protest to Parties

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199546862
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728594 | DOI:
Polarization and Party-Building in Zimbabwe

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This chapter provides an account of opposition party formation and development in Zimbabwe from 1999 to 2008. It argues that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was able to maintain a strong and cohesive party organization, despite significant state-sponsored violence and repression, for two reasons. First of all, the party benefited from the strong organizational structures and collective identity that organized labor and other civil society actors built prior to the launch of the opposition parties. Activists and grassroots constituencies had a track record of successful protest, and there were established procedures for decision-making and conflict resolution. Secondly, political polarization in Zimbabwe strengthened the opposition’s cohesion and the commitment of its activists. By increasing the salience of partisan identity, conflict and violence made defection difficult. The chapter suggests that conflict and polarization can have important party-building consequences, for both opposition and ruling parties alike.

Keywords: Polarization; state-sponsored violence; Zimbabwe; party organization; elections; party fragmentation; party durability; conflict; Movement for Democratic Change; MDC; Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front; ZANU-PF

Chapter.  15864 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Politics

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