Zimbabwe was off to a good start following independence in 1980. The first free elections were held the same year with the participation of several political parties. Economic and social developments were also promising with large investments in areas such as education, and the country was often referred to as the breadbasket of Africa.
Since then, Zimbabwe took an economic and political turn for the worse. Politically, Robert Mugabe, key player in the liberation struggle, and his party, ZANU-PF, gained a majority in the 1980 elections, and quickly set out to dominate the political scene in Zimbabwe. Obstruction of political opposition and an undermining of the rule of law have consequently become key features of politics in the country. Economically, the country was hit by rampant inflation, food shortages and, finally, collapse of the economy.
Not until the 2008 elections did ZANU-PF face effective resistance to its one-party rule, when the Movement for Democratic Change – formed in 1999 and split into two fractions, MDC-T and MDC-M, in 2005 – gained majority in the Zimbabwean Parliament. In the Presidential race, the leader of MDC-T, Morgan Tsvangirai, gained a majority in the first round, though not by sufficient votes to avoid a second run-off against Mugabe. Tsvangirai eventually withdrew following attacks on MDC supporters and Mugabe was sworn in for another term.
Following international pressure, a power-sharing agreement – the Global Political Agreement (GPA) – was reached between President Mugabe and Tsvangirai and an inclusive government formed in 2009, granting Tsvangirai the position as Prime Minister.
Although the GPA has increased political space somewhat in Zimbabwe, politically motivated violence and general human rights abuses continue to be a concern. Economically, the formation of the Inclusive Government and subsequent dollarisation of the currency has stabilised the economy somewhat, although poverty remains widespread.
In 2013, a new round of general elections were held and once again, Robert Mugabe turned victorious. In fact, ZANU-PF secured a whopping 61 percent of the votes and thereby not only secured Mugabe another stint in office, but also dominated the constituted parliament with 160 seats won compared to the 49 of MDC-T. The election result sparked controversy, as Tsvangirai called the elections “a huge farce” and there were widespread accusations of election fraud. As a result, the already troubled relationship between Mugabe and Tsvangirai took a turn for the worse.