Zimbabwe: Vote Recount Strategy Misfires

Harare — ZANU PF's strategy to fight back by ordering vote recounts in a bid to reverse its recent electoral defeat and buy more time for President Robert Mugabe is in disarray.

The situation has left Mugabe and his vanquished party with no option but to face a potentially humiliating presidential election run-off next month without control of parliament.

Mugabe, who is thought to have lost to opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, is widely expected to lose heavily to joint opposition forces despite using overwhelming force to change his fortunes.

Tsvangirai, who officially did not get the required majority, and independent candidate Simba Makoni together won a clear majority ahead of Mugabe.

The MDC and its allies have also won a majority in the House of Assembly, converting Zanu PF into a big opposition party.

Sources said Mugabe and Zanu PF have been playing for time after their shock setback to recover, reorganise and fight back.

However, the plan seems to have been thrown into disarray as the recounts so far have not changed anything.

The MDC had by yesterday retained its seats in Zaka West and the three Gutu constituencies. Zanu PF had won back two.

A total of nine recounts had by last evening been done, but there were no changes in the results. This means Zanu PF needs to win the 14 remaining recounts to control parliament.

The MDC and its allies have 110 seats, while Zanu PF has 97. Three seats are empty.

It was said this had sent alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power again as frightened authorities desperately try to reverse initial results to regain control of parliament and limit damage in Mugabe's heavy crash.

"Things are not going according to plan," a well-placed source said. "Although they have managed to buy time the real strategy to regain control of parliament via the back door and fight back with all means available at the run-off is not working. The recount has become a smokescreen and an exercise in futility."

The sources said Mugabe and his advisors knew the recount of presidential election votes would not change anything except probably limit damage and give the party a glimmer of hope he might survive through a run-off.

Official documents to hand show Mugabe did not expect to win by means of a recount.

The recount is only in 23 constituencies at the level of presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and municipal polls.

Mugabe, documents say, is merely expected to get an extra 7 000 votes in total, which does not change anything, especially because Tsvangirai has also been gaining votes in some cases.

Documents sampling about 36 urban and rural wards submitted by Zanu PF to ZEC to justify the recounts show all parties and candidates were prejudiced in mistakes made during the counting and collation of votes.

For instance, at Rimbi Primary School ward in Musikavanhu constituency in Chipinge, Mugabe was robbed of 425 votes, while Tsvangirai's tally was underestimated by 778 ballots.

Makoni lost 20 votes and the other candidate Langton Towungana 7 votes.

The situation was the same in wards in Chimanimani West where all the candidates were prejudiced of votes.

In the Chimanimani East ward 22, Tsvangirai had his votes underestimated by 193 ballots and Mugabe lost 137 votes.

There are other different examples where other candidates gained votes at the expense of others.

However, there was no pattern of systematic fraud as claimed by Zanu PF. Even going by official documents it seems there were computation mistakes and probably mischievous manipulation for all the candidates by misguided electoral officers.

At Mashayapokuvaka polling in Goromonzi West retained by Zanu PF in the recount, Makoni's votes were inflated by 127 ballots, Mugabe got 54 votes more than he deserved, while Tsvangirai was robbed of 189 votes.

Documents show that at Mzilikazi home craft centre ward 8 in Makokoba constituency in Bulawayo, Makoni got 254 votes more, while Tsvangirai lost 206 votes and Towungana was prejudiced of three votes.

Mugabe did not gain or lose anything.

In Chipinge West's ward 4, Mugabe was robbed of 500 votes; 773 votes in Mutoko North; 498 votes in Chiredzi East and 136 in Glen Norah in Harare.

Tsvangirai suffered a massive loss in Mutoko North where he was prejudiced of 931 votes. His tally was not put on the V23 votes collation form.

All candidates got undeserved votes in Gokwe-Chireya although Mugabe was the major beneficiary with 1 020 extra votes, Tsvangirai 273, Makoni 22 and Towunga 6.

In some constituencies under recount,such as Lupane East, it is not even known who was prejudiced although Zanu PF suspects Mugabe was.

Their own documents have no detail to make a case on that but they demanded a recount.

However, authorities show in their documents the recounts would not change anything except the statistical errors that have no bearing on the results.

"Clearly, Zanu PF's plan is not working at all," a source said. "They hoped they would manipulate recounts but it's very difficult given the levels of interest and supervision of the process."

"They also failed to build a case to justify the delay in announcing results, especially the presidential election outcome, and in the process reverse the initial figures. Their plan has collapsed."

Final results, including those of the presidential election, are expected to be announced over the weekend.

A run-off is expected to follow next month, placing Mugabe in exactly the same situation he sought to avoid via Constitutional Amendment (No.18), and leaving him staring defeat in the face.

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