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electoral system shatters prospects for democratic poll: coalition
February 02, 2005
HARARE - Zimbabwe
cannot hold a democratic election next month because heavily militarised
electoral systems and institutions as well as draconian legislation
continue to tilt the scale in favour of the government, according
to the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC) group.
The CZC is a
coalition of major pro-democracy and human rights groups, churches,
opposition political parties, women's groups, the student and labourmovement
reservations about Zimbabwe's readiness to hold a free and fair
election emerge as President Robert Mugabe yesterday set March 31
as thedate for the crunch ballot.
In a signed
proclamation, Mugabe said he will dissolve Parliament on March 30
to allow for polling the following day for the 120 elected seats.
for poll candidates will be held on February 18.
In the report
entitled "Things Fall Apart", which was prepared last month, the
CZC bemoans the deployment of military officers loyal to President
Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party at the centre of the
election system and state institutions responsible for governance.
and cosmetic changes, the electoral laws are still heavily weighed
in favour of the incumbent - electoral processes and institutions
continue to be militarised or Zanunised," reads part of the report
which is expected to be handed over to the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) this month.
have been deployed at the centre of state institutions that are
responsible for governance such as the judiciary, the Electoral
Supervisory Commission, the Delimitation Commission, parastatals
and in the administration of elections," the coalition adds.
Patrick Chinamasa yesterday told ZimOnline he had not yet seen the
report but still dismissed it in advance saying it was written in
Britain. Mugabe and his government blame former colonial master
London of fomenting the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe
in a bid to oust them from power.
"There is nothing worth losing sleep over, as it (the CZC report)
was most probably written in London at Downing Street (No 10, residence
of British Premier Tony Blair). "
to militarisation of the electoral system, security and Press laws
enacted by the government in the last five years have shrunk democratic
space that it was nearly impossible for the opposition to carry
out its activities or to campaign.
Under the government's
Public Order and Security Act, Zimbabweans must seek police permission
first before meeting in public to discuss politics. To date the
police have only used the law to cancel meetings by the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
The Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act has seen hundreds of journalists
arrested and at least three newspapers including the country's biggest
and only private daily paper, the Daily News, closed.
The CZC said
the government had also adopted a narrow definition of the country's
Citizenship Act to disenfranchise many white Zimbabweans and children
of immigrants from countries in the region such as Malawi and Zambia,
the majority of whom back the opposition.
"Zimbabweans" were born in the country and lived here all their
lives and voted in elections held before 2000, they can no longer
do so now because the government says they are not Zimbabweans since
their ancestors were not born in the country.
definition of citizenship has been targeted at people of foreign
descent, with white Zimbabweans branded by President Mugabe as 'aliens'
and enemies of the state. This branding or 'otherisation' has been
used to disfranchise perceived MDC sympathisers," the CZC said in
The CZC dismissed
recent government electoral reforms that saw a new Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) appointed to run polls in the country as minor
the coalition pointed out that the chairman of the new commission,
High Court Judge George Chiweshe, is a former army colonel who only
joined the bench after Mugabe purged the independent judges.
headed the Delimitation Commission that redrew voting constituencies
chopping off three constituencies from opposition strongholds and
awarding them to rural areas where Mugabe and ZANU PF enjoy more
support. - ZimOnline
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