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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
rivals condemn Zimbabwe election as illegal and unfair
The Guardian (UK)
July 31, 2013
View this article
on The Guardian (UK) website
went to the polls on Wednesday in an election that opponents
of Africa's oldest leader, Robert Mugabe, condemned as "illegal,
illegitimate, unfree and unfair".
Voting was peaceful
and turnout high across the country but the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), attempting to end Mugabe's 33-year-rule, claimed to
have uncovered evidence of massive fraud and rigging.
and thousands of people are being disenfranchised by virtue of not
finding their names on the voters' roll," said Tendai Biti,
the MDC secretary-general and finance minister in the government.
He described election officials as arrogant and insensitive to the
Biti took matters
into his own hands, storming into a polling station in the Mount
Pleasant area of the capital, Harare, claiming that 2,000 voters,
many of whom were underage, had been brought in from rural areas
to vote for Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
even stay in Mount Pleasant," he snapped, turning to one voter
and demanding that he name one street in the neighbourhood. The
voter stared at Biti impassively and said nothing.
fumed: "They can't even be persuaded to lie, Zanu-PF is so
desperate … we can't cheat an election, guys. How can you
cheat blatantly like this? It's the mother of all rigging to prevent
the mother of all defeats."
One of the buses
used to transport the voters had a sign for Honde Valley, more than
185 miles away near the Mozambican border, but the driver declined
to say where he picked the passengers up. "It's not a secret
– but we're not allowed to say that," he muttered.
An extra polling
tent appeared to have been set up for the voters, most of whom were
young and had shaved heads; all stared ahead silently and refused
to speak. Biti claimed the shaved heads were synonymous with Zanu-PF's
a mobile phone to demand a court injunction, Biti could be heard
saying: "They are ultra rural, from the back of beyond."
the local election presiding officer, said he could not tell where
the voters were from. A police officer insisted they were police
recruits brought by bus from a nearby training base.
had produced a long list of objections to the conduct of the elections,
arguing that the voters' roll contained two million invalid names,
that there was renewed intimidation in rural areas, and that extra
voting papers had been printed in a plot to swap ballot boxes.
already made clear this election is illegal, illegitimate, unfree
and unfair," he said, while still predicting an MDC victory.
"We are participating with a heavy heart."
election observer who analysed the roll last month also cited huge
irregularities. "There are clearly hundreds of thousands of
deceased people on the voters' roll. Either that or Japan does not
have the oldest age population in the world. There are thousands
At the last
election, in 2008, the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, beat Mugabe
in the first round but then withdrew from a run-off, citing violence
in which more than 200 people died.
two men formed a unity government with Tsvangirai as prime minister,
bringing a degree of stability as the economy went into meltdown.
This time Mugabe
has declined to make confident predictions and has promised to stand
down if he loses, although other Zanu-PF ministers insist that victory
by his wife, Grace, and their children, he voted at around noon
at Mhofu primary school near his former home in Highfield township.
He emerged from a concrete classroom and waved his little finger
coated in pink dye. Asked if he was nervous about the outcome, he
told the Guardian: "No, no, no, I've gone past that. At 89?"
The politician long accused of brutal authoritarianism by human
rights watchdogs was confident of a credible election. "I haven't
got an account yet but I suppose they're still gathering information.
I'm sure people will vote freely and fairly. There is no pressure
being exerted on anyone. So far, so good."
the MDC's claims of vote rigging as politicking, adding: "They
want to find a way out."
There has been
speculation that, should Mugabe prevail, he will step down before
his 90th birthday and hand power to one of his allies in Zanu-PF.
But asked by
journalists if he would serve a full term, the president, bidding
for his seventh straight election win, said: "Why not? Don't
you want me to serve the whole term? Why should I offer myself as
a candidate if it is to cheat the people into resigning after?"
queued patiently at the school. Mugabe had support from Kelvin Mudzing,
23, an electrician. "Robert Mugabe is the only person who can
stand for us. We're the younger generation and we need someone with
the sense of where we're coming from. We should keep him as long
as he's willing to serve."
But as in much
of Harare, the MDC is expected to win here with young voters demanding
voter, 24-year-old James Hanoki, had arrived at 3.30am to make sure
he cast his ballot; he was 32nd in the queue. He voted at 7.40am.
. "I'm feeling great. I've managed to do what I'm supposed
to do as a Zimbabwean to bring the change we need. I believe that
democracy can come. I believe that we can be like any other nation
that holds democratic elections."
Wearing an Arsenal
football shirt, Donald Mavhudzi, 28, a property manager, had queued
for five hours before voting. "We really wanted to vote for
change. Here in Zimbabwe they call us the born-frees. We didn't
experience the liberation struggle and for some of us it's the first
time to vote.
election was a bit tense. There was a lot of violence and people
were afraid, but this has been peaceful so far and people are excited.
If the playing field remains level today, I would say Morgan Tsvangirai
will the election by 65+%. But nobody knows what will happen after
vote at a high school in Harare, Tsvangirai, challenging Mugabe
for the third time, appeared less jocular than his opponent. He
said he expected to win "quite resoundingly".
There were 6.4
million voters in a nation of 12.9 million people. Mugabe refused
to allow western observer missions, including one from the Jimmy
Carter Centre, to monitor voting. But western embassies were permitted
to deploy a limited number of diplomats to key districts. The African
Union and southern African region also had thousands of observers.
Election Support Network, a coalition of non-government organisations,
said it had observed the elections in "a calm and peaceful
environment" but added: "It is regrettable that the voters'
roll remained unavailable, and this can potentially undermine the
credibility of the electoral process."
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