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2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles
decree reinforces rigging claims
Cuthbert Nzou, ZimOnline
March 21, 2008
Harare - President
Robert Mugabe's last minute chopping and changing of agreements
reached with the opposition only help buttress opposition claims
that he is out to steal the ballot next week, political analysts
told ZimOnline yesterday.
this week decreed changes to Zimbabwe's Electoral
Act to allow police officers into polling booths to assist illiterate
and physically incapacitated voters to cast their ballots.
The presidential decree
erased an agreement reached with the opposition during South African-brokered
talks that prohibited police from doubling up as polling officers
and banned them from coming within 100 meters of a polling station
to avoid intimidating voters.
Political scientist Eldred
Masunungure said Mugabe's decision to unilaterally change electoral
laws appeared to confirm the view that the March 29 polls will not
be free and fair, especially when considered in the context of threats
by security commanders to reject an opposition victory.
who teaches political science at the University
of Zimbabwe, said: "It (amendment) gives impetus to allegations
that ZANU PF (Mugabe's ruling party) intends to rig the elections.
statements by Chihuri (Augustine, Police Commissioner General) and
Mugabe's move this week are worrying. You cannot blame the opposition
when it says the elections will not be free and fair."
week vowed he would not allow "Western-backed puppets"
to rule Zimbabwe, repeating similar comments
made a fortnight ago by Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander,
General Constantine Chiwenga that the military would be prepared
to salute Mugabe only.
The statements by Chihuri
and Chiwenga, who as ZDF chief is commander of Zimbabwe's army and
air force, were seen as threats to stage a military coup in the
event Mugabe loses next week.
The main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) party believes police play a pivotal
role in rigging of elections and intimidating illiterate rural voters
to vote for Mugabe and ZANU PF.
The opposition party
said Mugabe's decree allowing police back in polling booths was
evidence that the "police are indeed used as a weapon of intimidation
in the ZANU PF power retention agenda. Secondly, in our view, it
is unacceptable that Mugabe, a participant in this election can
change the rules of the game when the game is being played."
Another UZ political
scientist, John Makumbe, urged the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) to condemn Mugabe for shifting goal posts just
days before elections.
bloc that was the political sponsor of the President Thabo-Mbeki-led
talks between ZANU PF and the MDC should pressure the Zimbabwean
leader to reinstate the police ban agreed with the opposition, he
"SADC should condemn
Mugabe and make sure that he goes back to the earlier agreement.
We cannot have a partisan police in polling stations. They are cogs
in the ZANU PF rigging machinery," said Makumbe, who is a critic
of Mugabe's rule.
Allegations of vote rigging
have marred Zimbabwe's polls in recent years, which have also been
stained by charges of violence and intimidation of voters.
The United States, European
Union and other Western governments have maintained sanctions against
Mugabe's government they accuse of gross human rights abuses and
stealing his way to victory in elections in 2002.
Mugabe, who beat main
challenger Morgan Tsvangirai by a mere 400 000 votes in the 2002
poll, insists that he won fairly and says Western sanctions have
worsened Zimbabwe's economic crisis.
Analysts say support
from the military as well as a skewed political playing field is
enough to ensure victory for Mugabe despite an economic meltdown
that has spawned hyperinflation and shortages of food, fuel, essential
medicines, hard cash and just about every basic survival commodity.
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