Bounded Autonomy: What Limits Zimbabweans' Trust in their Courts and Electoral Commission?

This policy paper analyzes public trust in the country's courts and electoral commission. Though intended to act as independent custodians of the Constitution and the electoral process, both the judiciary and the electoral commission are frequently accused of being beholden to political leaders. This year’s election is not the first to be accompanied by allegations of vote rigging, intimidation, and politically tainted court decisions. Allegations of bias are frequently leveled against judges from the High Court and Supreme Court, even between election cycles. Yet previous analysis of Afrobarometer data has shown that Zimbabwe’s courts are among the most trusted on the continent. And trust in the ZEC has doubled since 2010. Our analysis of public opinion data suggests that citizens trust these two institutions within bounds. For court cases involving only ordinary citizens and technical electoral issues such as the rollout of the biometric voter registration (BVR), the judiciary and the ZEC enjoy substantial public confidence. But faced with politically sensitive issues, they no longer find broad popular support.