Command Centre to Announce Presidential Winner

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Tuesday said ballots for the presidential vote would be counted in constituencies but the chief elections officer at a command centre in Harare would announce the result.

ZEC chairman George Chiweshe rejected as untrue claims by the opposition that his commission planned to ferry presidential ballots for counting at the command centre.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party last week said it was worried that presidential votes might be counted centrally rather than at polling stations – making it easier to cheat. The party said it would not accept the result if counting was done at the command centre.

There are sections who have misconstrued that the presidential ballots will be transported for counting at the national command centre. This is not a fact, said Chiweshe, who was briefing a delegation of the electoral commissions forum of Southern African Development Community countries in Harare.

Each polling station will tabulate its results and these results will be taken to a collation centre. A senior polling officer at every polling station will be responsible for announcing the results of council, senate and house of assembly but as for the presidential, this will be done by the chief elections officer, he said.

According to Chiweshe, the Electoral Act stipulated that a chief elections officer should announce the result of a presidential election.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the opposition party wants all results including that of the presidential vote to be announced at polling stations to minimize the risk of someone tampering with and manipulation a result they may consider unfavourable.

This is the most logical thing to do otherwise anything besides this will (minimize) attempts to steal and manipulate the people’s vote, said Chamisa, who added that the MDC had forwarded its concerns to Chiweshe’s commission.

The MDC, which insists President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party have cheated in previous elections, maintains the government is out to fix the ballot through among other tricks stuffing ballot boxes and inflating the number of postal ballots.

The opposition party also claims the ZEC has deliberately put fewer polling stations in the MDC’s urban strongholds in order to deny voters there a chance to cast their ballots.

Chiweshe said only the police would vote by post and that only 8 000 postal ballots had been or were being issued to the police.

He said there would be composite polling stations in major cities such as Harare and Bulawayo with each station having several voting centres to allow more people to vote.

The ZEC was also discussing with political parties whether to increase the number of polling stations in cities, he said.

Zimbabweans go to the polls on March 29 to elect a new president, parliamentarians and local government representatives.

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