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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Chance of free and fair poll is remote says civil society
    Alex Bell, SW Radio Africa
    July 30, 2013

    View this article on the SW Radio Africa website

    With just a few hours to go until Zimbabwe’s crucial elections, civil society organisations and other watchdog groups have all said that the possibility of a free and fair poll is remote.

    Polling stations open on Wednesday morning amid serious concern that once again, Zimbabwe is facing a disputed election outcome. Reports of suspected vote rigging are increasing, along with incidents of politically motivated intimidation that have seen MDC-T supporters being targeted by Zanu-PF supporters and members.

    Civil society groups have also been warning that the credibility of the polls is in doubt, for a number of reasons. The latest warning has come from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), which said in a pre-election report released on Tuesday that it has noted “continued incidences of intimidation and politically-motivated violence.”

    “What has been of more concern in the pre-election period is the nuanced, strategic and malevolently intentional targeting of political activists and human rights defenders in efforts to undermine and disrupt their activities. As such, ZLHR has recorded increased instances in which mobilisers, educators, human rights monitors and those providing critical legal and psychosocial support services have been intentionally sought out for intimidation, harassment and attack,” the ZLHR said.

    The group listed a number of other serious issues, including the ‘disgraceful’ role of the state media and the lack of reforms within key electoral commission. The ZLHR also slammed the imposition of the election date as ‘destabilising’ and ‘destructive’.

    “ZLHR is of the considered view that the imposition of the 31 July 2013 election date by way of presidential decree usurped the role and function of Parliament and the investment made by the region and continent in the GPA. It destabilised the Inclusive Government and could easily have had the effect of destroying the considerable efforts made to ensure continued peace in the country on its way to fresh elections,” the ZLHR said.

    Another warning about the Wednesday’s poll came on Tuesday from the research and advocacy group, Good Governance Africa, which said in a statement that the elections “will be neither free nor fair.” The group cited “deplorable conditions for free and fair voting,” a “rigged voters roll,” and the fact that some credible observers have been denied access to the polls Wednesday.

    “Zimbabweans have been denied the change that they have demanded before, and it would be indefensible to allow democracy to be circumvented again,” the group said

    A Zimbabwean coalition on civil society groups on Monday also warned that the chances of a free and fair poll are remote. According to the Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism (CISOMM), which released its pre-election report on Monday, Zimbabwe could be facing real danger in this election period.

    “Despite some legal reforms and procedural adjustments, the realities of our history, including significant factors such as the attitudes of the incumbents and their well-documented subversion of State power and resources to service their partisan interests, coupled with the shockingly limited access of people to a diversity of opinion, lead to a conclusion that the immediate future may be fraught with danger for the Zimbabwean people,” CISOMM said.

    This warning coincided with a report released by the International Crisis Group which on Monday warned that the country could face extensive violence and a return to a ‘protracted political crisis’. These warnings were contained in the Group’s latest report on the elections titled: ‘Mugabe’s last stand’. It said the country is ‘inadequately prepared’ for the polls on Wednesday and the conditions for a free and fair poll do not exist.

    “Confidence in the process and institutions is low. The voters’ roll is a shambles, security forces unreformed and the media grossly imbalanced. The electoral commission is under-funded and lacked time to prepare. Concerns about rigging are pervasive, strongly disputed results highly likely,” the report states.

    SW Radio Africa is Zimbabwe's Independent Voice and broadcasts on Short Wave 4880 KHz in the 60m band.

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