Millions of Zimbabweans took to the polls yesterday to cast their votes in the country’s presidential elections. Unlike the elections in 2008, voting passed peacefully and without major incidents. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC is again hoping to unseat President Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF. A ZANU-PF source has told Reuters that it is again 89-year old Robert Mugabe that has won the elections, while the MDC calls the elections rigged. The MDC is holding a crisis meeting later today. Releasing electoral results prior to the final electoral results is illegal, and official results are not expected until August 5th. Elections in 2008 saw Mugabe’s ZANU-PF outvoted in the first round, which prompted a violent crackdown on the opposition. A compromise government was eventually formed between MDC and ZANU-PF, with Mugabe as President and Tsvangirai as Prime Minister.
Fair or flawed
The head of the African Union observer mission, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, is positive about the elections, saying: "From what I saw and the reports that I’ve received so far from our observers who went out in the field, the conduct of the elections everywhere they went to was peaceful, orderly and free and fair”. The Zimbabwe Election Support Netwerk, a coalition of NGO's, has spoken out against electoral fraud, saying "it is not sufficient for elections to be peaceful for elections to be credible. They must offer all citizens... an equal opportunity to vote." The MDC speaks of "monumental fraud", claiming intimidation of opposition supporters, mass turning away of voters and early votes for MDC being tossed in the garbage. Minister of Finance and secretary general of the MDC, Tendai Biti, says there have been cases of large-scale disenfranchisement and voter slip fraud. Government-owned Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald calls his claims of fraud unsubstantiated.
Accusations of fraud and corruption
Zimbabwean community-based organisation Centre for Community Development (CCDZ) claims reports of ZANU-PF hired election officials assisting voters in rural areas and police issuing instructions to voters. The Zimbabwean, newspaper for Zimbabweans in exile, has sources saying ZANU-PF government officials are urging voters to vote for Mugabe, and “people were told that they should tell the officials at the polling station that they are illiterate so that the Zanu (PF) officials accompanying them will cast the votes on their behalf.” International watchdog group Global Witness has accused ZANU-PF of using the country’s diamond revenues to fund undemocratic tactics and ensure a favorable outcome.
The International Crisis Group on Monday called a return to protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence after yesterday’s elections “likely”. The organisation notes that voter information has increased significantly since 2008, and ZANU-PF no longer enjoys the country’s unquestioning loyalty. Election results, expected on Monday, will show whether Robert Mugabe can extend his rule of 33 years or if Morgan Tsvangirai will claim Zimbabwe’s presidency.
Photo courtesy of Sokwanele-Zimbabwe.