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Zimbabwe: I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours

Integrated Regional Information Networks, United Nations, May 1, 2008

Is President Robert Mugabe's time over? (Photo: IRIN)

A month after Zimbabweans went to the polls a recount of 23 disputed constituencies revealed no major changes and has served to confirm the status quo that, for the first time since independence in 1980, President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF has lost control of parliament.

The results of the presidential race have yet to be announced, but Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.), has declared victory, using the same data that forecast his party's parliamentary win.

Revised election laws, negotiated by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki—who was appointed in 2007 by the Southern African Development Community to mediate between Mugabe's government and the opposition—made it mandatory for each of the nearly 9,000 polling stations to post the results at each constituency.

ZANU-PF has dismissed Tsvangirai's claims that he won the presidential ballot by the required 50 percent plus 1 vote, which, if correct, would negate a second round of voting. ZANU-PF has consistently maintained the line that none of the three presidential candidates—Mugabe, Tsvangirai, and former ZANU-PF finance minister Simba Makoni—achieved the required majority vote.

Since the poll on March 29 there have been widespread reports of killings and beatings of opposition supporters by the police and army, allegedly to intimidate voters ahead of the expected second round of voting to elect a president.

Ahead of the constituency recount there were fears that ZANU-PF would order ballot boxes to be stuffed with ghost votes, but senior ZANU-PF insiders told IRIN that internal squabbling in the party had trickled down to junior polling officers, who had "allowed" the results to stand.

If anything, the recount—ordered by ZANU-PF—revealed some attempts to rig the elections in favor of Mugabe's ruling party. In one constituency, where it was declared that ZANU-PF had received 18,000 votes, the recount revealed that it had actually only garnered 8,000 votes, while in other constituencies both parties registered minor gains and losses in vote numbers.

The end result of the recount gave ZANU-PF 97 seats and the M.D.C. 109 seats. The opposition party had been divided going into elections, but has announced that the two factions will work together. ZANU-PF's former information minister, Jonathan Moyo, who stood as an independent, secured his seat.

Three constituencies in the 210-seat parliament were not contested after the candidates died just before the election and by-elections are to be held at a later date.

Awaiting the Presidential Result

However, there has been steadily rising concern over the failure of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Z.E.C.)—whose functionaries are appointed by Mugabe—to announce the outcome of the presidential election.

On April 28 representatives of the presidential race were summoned by the Z.E.C. for a further verification and collation exercise that "would lead to the announcement of the results of the presidential election."

The Z.E.C. instructed each political party to bring its own presidential results to the Z.E.C. If their figures matched those of the Z.E.C., the result of the presidential election would be announced. Any discrepancies would be "crosschecked."

George Chiweshe, retired army officer and Z.E.C. chairman, denied that the delay was undermining the credibility of the poll. "Nothing could be further from the truth. We wish to reiterate that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is an independent, impartial, and transparent election body."

M.D.C. spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said, "Where in the world have you heard election management bodies asking contestants to bring their own results to compare with their own? They [Z.E.C.] have the results and they should just announce them.

"What this amounts to is: giving Mugabe the opportunity to produce his own inflated results before a dispute is declared. Z.E.C. is just buying time on behalf of Mugabe—first it was the recount, now they want us to produce our own results. There has also been talk of a run-off before the results are even out."

The M.D.C. is undecided as to whether it would participate in a second round of presidential voting. "The environment and conditions pertaining to a possible run-off would depend on the situation on the ground," Chamisa said. "We are not going to participate in an election that will endorse the circus now taking place in Zimbabwe over the elections." © IRIN

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

From Integrated Regional Information Networks.

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