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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Center questions legitimacy of newly elected government in Zimbabwe
F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
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Robert F. Kennedy Center
The Robert F.
Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) questions
the results of Zimbabwe’s
July 31 election and the legitimacy of the newly elected government.
On August 3, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that
Robert Mugabe had secured the presidency for a seventh consecutive
term by winning 61 percent of the vote and that Zanu-PF had garnered
a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
According to information gathered by the RFK Center, the environment
leading up to the vote was characterized by an unequal playing field,
replete with widespread breaches of domestic and international law,
and widespread irregularities continued on Election Day.
During a visit
to Zimbabwe in March 2013, an RFK Center delegation documented the
concerns of citizens, mainly pertaining to human rights violations
against individuals and civil society organizations participating
in the electoral process, including systematic intimidation, threats,
violence, and arbitrary detention of activists, and violations of
freedom of expression and access to information. Following the publication
of the RFK Center report, A Promise in Peril: How Widespread Rights
Violations Undermine Zimbabwe’s Elections, we continued to
receive reports of irregularities throughout the electoral process.
On July 31,
Zimbabweans cast their ballots in a highly anticipated election.
According to figures provided by the ZEC, nearly twice as many citizens
turned out to vote in this election compared to 2008. The election
was characterized by largely peaceful proceedings with few reported
instances of violence; certainly a welcome contrast to 2008, when
over 200 people
were killed and thousands forced to flee their homes to escape
the political chaos that had engulfed the country.
of electoral fraud were pervasive, with opposition political parties
and independent domestic observers echoing similar and consistent
concerns. The Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN), a nongovernmental organization
that organized the largest in-country observation team, noted in
its initial report
that the credibility of the election was “seriously compromised”
due to a high number of documented irregularities.
The most serious
irregularity is the alleged disenfranchisement of millions of eligible
voters as a result of Zimbabwe’s deeply flawed electoral roll.
In violation of domestic law and international standards, an electronic
form of the register was not made available to the participating
political parties or to civil society organizations prior to Election
Day. An independent audit of a hard copy, which took place two weeks
prior to the election, found that one million people on the register
were deceased; 63 constituencies had more registered voters than
inhabitants; and well over 100,000 people were over the age of 100,
all in a country that has an average life expectancy of 52.
The voter registration
process was also compromised and not undertaken in good faith by
relevant state authorities. One civic group estimates that as many
as two million potential voters under the age of 30 remained unregistered
on Election Day. According to their own figures, the Registrar General’s
Office (RG) registered a mere 8 percent of those in the 18-19 age
group, while somehow managing to register 220 percent of those over
the age of 80. Large numbers, with some estimates as high as 30
percent of urban voters were also reportedly denied requisite opportunities
to register, whereas 99.97 percent of rural voters, located in traditional
Zanu-PF strongholds, were allowed to do so. The RG also disenfranchised
upwards of four million Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora by not
allowing them to participate in the election, despite a May 2013
ruling by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
(ACHPR) that affirmed their right to vote, and further violated
the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Principles and
Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which stipulates that
voting rights be extended to the Diaspora community.
Day, ZESN observation teams noted that voters were turned away from
82 percent of urban polling stations, many of which are located
in areas strongly supportive of the opposition. Overall, it is projected
that between 700,000 -1 million urban voters were systematically
disenfranchised. Election observers also noted that far too many
extra ballots-perhaps as many as two million-had been printed and
so far remain unaccounted for. According to many local reports,
high numbers of uniformed security personnel at polling stations
intimidated those who still bear the scars, both physical and emotional,
of past police brutality. An alarmingly high number of voters also
required special “voting assistance,” particularly for
a country like Zimbabwe which boasts Sub-Saharan Africa’s
highest literacy rate. To date, reported irregularities and allegations
of fraud by civil society organizations, opposition political parties,
and domestic observers have been ignored by the SADC and African
Union missions and not addressed by the ZEC, despite its constitutional
responsibility to do so.
While the people
of Zimbabwe must be commended for the peaceful and dignified manner
in which they went to the polls, there are serious outstanding concerns
about the integrity of the electoral process that must be thoroughly
investigated. The evidence shows that the will of the Zimbabwean
people has been systematically suppressed and not reflected in the
official election results. The high number of infringements on political
rights during the electoral process, as well as the disenfranchisement
of huge segments of the population on Election Day, undermines the
legitimacy of the newly-elected Mugabe administration.
Given the violations
of the rights of citizens to vote and to participate freely in public
affairs-rights that are protected under Zimbabwean law and international
human rights conventions ratified by Zimbabwe-the RFK Center strongly
urges President Mugabe and Zanu-PF to work with the international
community, civil society, and opposition political parties to address
these concerns and reach an equitable solution that reflects the
will of the Zimbabwean people.
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