A slow, decade-long collapse of the economy – under the weight of Western sanctions and self-destructive economic policies at home – has turned Mugabe into a deeply unpopular leader. Even Mugabe's staunchest supporters, the military and security agencies, seem to have lost the will to rig elections in his favor or to enforce his will on the streets, observers say.
"My sense is that they were unable to rig these elections, in part because of a lack of capacity and motivation by ZANU-PF officials and the security agencies," says Chris Maroleng, a Zimbabwe expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane as Pretoria, South Africa, is now called.
Key reforms prevented vote rigging
Electoral reforms, negotiated under the leadership of the South African delegation to the Southern African Development Community, forced electoral officials to count votes at polling stations and to announce the results at the polling stations, Mr. Maroleng adds.
This prevented ZANU-PF officials from stuffing ballots later on at the central counting offices in Harare. Once the votes were counted, Mugabe's downfall was literally written on the wall.