21 July 2013

Zimbabwe: Election Dogged By Controversy

Photo: Trevor Magwagwa
MDC-T and Zanu PF supporters together.

FEARS abound that Zimbabwe could have another disputed election outcome if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) fails to address logistical problems that characterised last week's special ballot, analysts have warned.

They also expressed serious reservations about the electoral management body's capacity, in the absence of enough funding 10 days before the poll date, to deliver credible elections.

Recently ZEC -- which had over the past months claimed that it was ready for the elections -- failed to conduct a special vote for 69 000 people, leaving at least more than half of them unable to cast their ballots.

If the election management body failed to conduct an election for 69 000 voters in two days, the analysts reasoned, it will be foolhardy to expect it to successfully manage a poll for about 6 million people in 12 hours.

The special voting process failed to commence at most designated polling stations due to a shortage of ballot boxes, stationery and ZEC's failure to timeously deliver the special voting certificates.

Analysts said the whole election process was poorly planned, plagued by irregularities and under-funding.

As of yesterday, Finance minister Tendai Biti was still to secure adequate funding for the elections to be held on July 31. On Friday, he accused Justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa of frustrating the election process, an allegation Zanu PF has also raised against the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-T.

"We gave US$20 million to [ZEC] on Monday for the actual elections after giving out US$11 million last week," said Biti. "We don't have resources at the moment.

We are not happy with the issue of diamonds."

ZEC has budgeted US$130 million for the harmonised elections.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Shakespeare Hamauswa said the credibility of the July 31 elections hinged on how ZEC addressed the mistakes it encountered during the special ballot.

"This was the first time that special votes were done outside the police stations," he said. "So the credibility of the elections will depend on how ZEC addresses these issues."

Govt should tackle election challenges urgently: CCDZ

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Shakespeare Hamauswa said ZEC should exploit the absence of political violence that characterised the 2008 elections to ensure a credible and an internationally-recognised poll.

The MDC-T has said at least 200 of its supporters were killed by Zanu PF and State security agents during the 2008 violent poll.

But Zanu PF has dismissed the allegations.

The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) has urged government to convene a Cabinet meeting and try to address the problems affecting the smooth running of the electoral process ahead of the elections.

The civic organisation monitored the two-day special voting exercise across the country.

"There is urgent need for government to avail funds to ZEC and strengthen the electoral management body and build technical capacity of this institution to preserve the country's democratic processes," said CCDZ in a statement.

Sadc leaders last month in Mozambique urged President Robert Mugabe to ask the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to extend by two weeks the July 31 deadline for the holding of elections.

This was after the MDC formations and civil society organisations complained to the regional body that the country was not ready for elections, noting that reforms to level the electoral playing field had not been effected.

The ConCourt, however, dismissed the application, insisting that the polls be held on July 31 as earlier ordered.

ZEC last week denied it was partisan insisting that it was a professional body and reiterated its commitment to holding fee and fair elections next week.

"Commissioners and staff of ZEC have different backgrounds but they are all required to be and to date have been impartial in the discharge of their duties," said ZEC in a statement. "The Commission remains committed to conducting free and fair elections on 31 July 2013."

'ZIM HEADING FOR ANOTHER SHAM POLL'

Political analyst, Phillip Pasirayi said ZEC lacked capacity to deliver a credible poll.

He said there was need to build capacity and offer technical assistance to the body, including removing from its ranks those partisan individuals associated with the election debacle of 2008.

"Without addressing these challenges, I am afraid to say that the next elections are a mere self-legitimating ritual no different from the previous elections," said Pasirayi. "Judging by the chaos that we witnessed during the special voting exercise, the country is headed for another sham election whose outcome will not reflect the will of the people."

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