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From Protest to PartiesParty-Building and Democratization in Africa$
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Adrienne LeBas

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199546862

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199546862.001.0001

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Polarization and Party-Building in Zimbabwe

Polarization and Party-Building in Zimbabwe

(p.178) Seven Polarization and Party-Building in Zimbabwe
From Protest to Parties

Adrienne LeBas

Oxford University Press

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

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