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loose ends remain as Zimbabweans prepare to vote
Monsters and Critics
March 19, 2008
on the Monsters and Critics website
Harare - One
of Zimbabwe's leading human rights bodies is alarmed over what it
says is a contradiction" in the country's electoral law which
gives two directly opposing directions for declaring of the winner
of presidential elections. Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has written to Judge George
Chiweshe, state-appointed chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC), appealing for a resolution to the issue ahead of the March
29 elections, ZLHR projects officer Rangu Nyamurindira said.
A section in
the main body of the Electoral
Act stipulates that if none of the candidates gets more than
50 per cent of the vote, a second round has to be held within 21
days between the two candidates with the most votes.
But another provision
in the law's schedule - an addendum to the act which is meant to
provide explanatory detail to the main part of the law - says that
the candidate who simply gets the most votes is to be declared the
The chances of a run-off
have assumed dramatic importance in the March 29 election.
The 84-year-old President
Robert Mugabe is standing against former national labour head Morgan
Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, along
with former finance minister and ex-ruling party politburo member
Simba Makoni and a lesser-known fourth candidate, Langton Towungana.
In the last presidential
vote in 2002, Mugabe got 54 per cent of the vote, against Tsvangirai's
40 per cent. Analysts say that this time around, with Mugabe's support
considerably withered by economic chaos and some defections within
his party to Makoni, there is a strong likelihood he will get less
than 50 per cent.
This would force him
into a run-off against either Tsvangirai or Makoni, either of whom
could then form some an alliance with the potential to collect more
votes than Mugabe.
Nyamurindira said ZLHR
told Chiweshe "that the discrepancy (in the Electoral Act on
conditions for a runoff) might cause confusion" and needed
clarification from the ZEC.
"Normally what happens
is that the content of the act itself takes precedence over the
schedule." Nyamurindira said there were court rulings that
served as legal precedents in similar conflicts, where the provision
in the main body of the act was ruled to be superior to that in
have warned that if Mugabe is faced with a second round, he may
order that the simple majority provided for in the schedule be followed,
irrespective of legal opinion.
"Mugabe has shown
over and again that if the law is against him, he'll do what he
needs to win," one analyst said.
Nyamurindira said ZLHR
was also considering applying to the High Court for a declaration
from a judge stating which provision in the Electoral Act should
be followed, should Mugabe fail to get more than 50 per cent of
"That will at least
make it difficult for him to wriggle out of a run-off," said
another lawyer who asked not to be named.
No comment could be obtained
The affair is the latest
in a series of challenges to electoral authorities' handling of
the election, which will also decide the new 210-seat House of Assembly,
60 out of the 84 seat in the senate (Mugabe appoints the remaining
24) and 1,958 local councillors.
Trudy Stevenson, an MP
of the smaller faction of the MDC, is demanding that authorities
hand over a digitally amenable copy of the voters' roll of 5.5 million
voters, which computer experts could analyse for evidence of any
deliberate manipulation meant to favor Mugabe and his Zanu-PF.
The only analysis of
the voters' roll briefly permitted in 2002 unearthed the names of
thousands of deceased voters, people registered several times, others
with fake identity numbers and more at addresses at small homes
where scores of voters were listed.
Stevenson said she had
discovered recently that the name of Desmond Lardner-Burke was on
the voters' roll for her Harare constituency. He was the notorious
former minister of law and order in the white minority Rhodesian
government that came to an end in 1979 after a seven-year civil
war for black majority rule, and had died several years ago in South
Africa, she said.
"He would now be
102," she added.
Tendai Biti, secretary
general of Tsvangirai's MDC has applied to the High Court for a
hard copy of the electoral roll. His lawyers said they have been
told by authorities they can have it "after the election."
Also before the courts,
is an application to force the ZEC to increase the number of polling
stations in urban areas. An election watchdog organization last
week said there were so few provided for now, it would mean that
polling stations would have to process a voter every 22 seconds
in 12 hours on the single day's voting.
This was an "impossible"
feat and would mean thousands of voters would be unable to cast
their votes, the organization said.
it is as deliberate ploy by Mugabe - first used in the 2002 elections
- successfully - to cut the number of voters in urban areas where
opposition against him is strongest.
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