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voters’ roll plainly shaped to dislodge MDC
Wet, Mail and Guardian (SA)
August 01, 2013
Any voters officially
reported in favour of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) in Zimbabwe will be a victory over the odds heavily and systematically
stacked against it, even if it suffers a heavy defeat.
six years of negotiation mediated in part by the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), the MDC
went into this week’s elections in conditions that in
many respects, where little different from those in 2008.
By 2010, Zimbabwe’s
political parties, including Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF had agreed
to a road map to new elections that would see major changes to administrative
and media structures, to laws and policies, and to the way the police
and army operate. By this week many of the most important changes
had not been met. Those include:
- The appointment
of provincial governors and Cabinet ministers by the opposition;
security services to a requirement to be politically neutral;
- Changes to
the oversight structures for state broadcasting; and
- Changes to
laws preventing free assembly and speech.
around the implementation of that roadmap, Mugabe won every notable
battle of that roadmap, leaving reform stalled. That, in turn, left
Zanu-PF hardliners (or individuals close to Mugabe) in charge of
everything from the state media to the electoral body responsible
for running the elections.
It also left
security officials free to, if not directly threaten a bloody coup
should opposition Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai win the elections,
at least make on-the-record statement to the effect that he was
a “psychiatric patient,” “confused”, and
generally unfit to either command or lead.
The lack of
those reforms was the basis on which both opposition parties and
SADC rejected Zanu-PF’s claim that the country was ready to
host free and fair vote. This week, however, SADC commended the
election with little caution its language.
Still in place
this week were laws that have been used to limit what journalists
could report and to prevent political gatherings. And the commanders,
officers and administrators who have declared their undying loyalty
to Zanu-PF and Mugabe personally were still holding key positions.
As early results
started trickling in on Thursday, it became clear that the major
flaw in the elections, which could be the basis for later legal
challenges and allegations of gross manipulation, lay in the voters’
on rushed elections, despite an earlier agreement that the date
would be negotiated to prevent a repeat
of the 2008 election, where the date was also decided unilaterally
Mugabe engineered a situation that would favour his party, or at
least provide a cover of chaos under which possible vote rigging
would be harder to prove.
of restricted time frames for the processes and continue poor funding
for the electoral commission left the roll “in a shambles”,
as Zimbabwe’s election body itself conceded. Close analysis
of the roll has been impossible so far: it was only made available
on Wednesday, in a raw form and with as many as 900 000 duplicate
Among the improbabilities
on the roll already alleged by the MDC is that there are more than
200 000 voters older than 103, and that districts had a higher number
of registered than their total population.
That is on top
of a registration process that made it much harder for those in
urban areas to register than their rural counterparts: the MDC is
favoured in cities, while Zanu-PF sees strong support in more rural
areas. Also excluded from the vote were Zimbabweans who live outside
the country, including the estimated 500 000 who spend most their
time in South Africa.
Yet all those
problems represent only the most obvious hurdles that will inevitably
affect the opposition voter, and its accurate reflection.
Some areas of
manipulation are more subtle, and evidence harder to find. Particularly
intriguing and worrisome was the involvement of Israeli company
Nikuv International Projects in the editing of Zimbabwe’s
voters’ roll. As the Mail& Guardian reported in April,
Nikuv has been accused of helping several sitting governments in
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