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election rigging machine in high gear
April 23, 2007
HARARE – President
Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF party has set in motion a campaign
of violence and intimidation and gerrymandering to ensure a predetermined
outcome even before the first ballot is cast in the March 2008 parliamentary
and presidential elections, analysts said.
has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980,
has in the past been accused by the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party of cheating his way to victory in
major elections since 2000.
said the campaign of violence, which has seen opposition figures
being brutally assaulted and tortured by state security agents,
was meant to intimidate and weaken the MDC, which has been the most
potent threat to Mugabe’s rule.
critics see the attacks on the opposition as the beginning of a
strategy to ensure that the MDC will be unable to win even a reasonably
fair presidential race," the New York Times newspaper said in a
violence and terrorism charges slapped on opponents in recent weeks
were a tactic to bog down the opposition in endless court appearances,
while the clock ticks towards March 2008.
This was also
meant to drain its war chest for the polls and leave it without
any financial resources during the election time, the analysts said.
The MDC charges
that Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis has been caused by
disputed elections but Mugabe in turn says he has won fairly and
charges that the West is funding the MDC to topple him as punishment
for seizing white-owned commercial farms.
of MDC supporters have died in political violence mostly unleashed
by war veterans, ZANU PF youths and security agents since 2000 as
Mugabe fought for his political life amid growing disenchantment
over his controversial and often populist policies.
last week’s creation of new boundaries for urban and peri-urban
areas by the government was meant to dilute the MDC’s support in
its urban strongholds ahead of next year’s vote.
The MDC has
enjoyed overwhelming support in urban areas, where workers are battling
with a deep economic crisis that has pushed inflation to 2 000 percent
and left eight in every ten people without a job and spawned acute
shortages of foreign currency and food.
Minister Ignatius Chombo said new boundaries which would incorporate
rural wards in Mashonaland provinces into Harare Metropolitan Provinces
would be gazetted by the government soon. A similar exercise would
be undertaken in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province.
said the result would be more urban constituencies with rural wards
and ZANU PF would claim it has made inroads in re-capturing urban
votes from the MDC.
it is called gerrymandering, a process by which urban and peri-urban
areas are divided or expanded by the ruling government as to weaken
the strongholds of the opposition political parties," John
Makumbe, a political commentator and known Mugabe critic said.
strongholds are in the urban areas, so they are trying to weaken
it by incorporating some parts of rural areas into Harare Province
," Makumbe added.
said while ZANU PF and the MDC were preparing for political talks
under the stewardship of South African President Thabo Mbeki, Mugabe
was forging ahead with a process to ensure victory even if elections
were to be free and fair.
Mugabe and ZANU
PF have enjoyed strong support in rural areas, which bore the brunt
of the country’s bloody 1970s liberation struggle. The MDC has failed
to penetrate the rural areas partly because of violence and intimidation
against its supporters in these areas.
The MDC says
only a new constitution and internationally supervised elections
will guarantee a free vote but analysts said even if that were to
happen, pre-election violence and gerrymandering would guarantee
ZANU PF victory.
getting into a phase where an election is simply to endorse a pre-planned
result because if you tamper with the electoral process and unleash
so much violence, and put that together with the apathetic nature
of the Zimbabwean voter, then you have a guaranteed victory,"
Eldred Masunungure, chairman of the political science department
at the University of Zimbabwe said.
is a cunning political animal and it will stop at nothing to make
sure there is little room to wriggle for the MDC," Masunungure
said. – ZimOnline
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