Morgan Tsvangirai smiles out from an MDC election poster at Greenpark. Will voters see this as a welcome change from the clenched fist of the Zanu (PF) that has brought misery to millions?Â
BY CHIEF REPORTER
New election laws allowing police officers into polling booths, coup threats, a flawed voters’ roll, a partisan electoral commission, cherry-picking of observers, the printing of surplus ballot papers have made it nearly impossible for the vote to be free and fair, according to human rights groups.
Although political violence is believed to be at lower levels than in the previous poll, the Human Rights NGO Forum, a consortium of Zimbabwean rights groups, says security forces are behind 90 per cent of the intimidation. The police, prison services and the army’s top brass have all openly warned that they will not accept a Tsvangirai victory.
Meanwhile, official interference continues in an effort to stifle the opposition. The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe last Saturday, for example, refused a flight permit for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to board his chartered plane to Matabeleland North for five key rallies. The same day, police banned another Tsvangirai rally at Zimbabwe Grounds.
Mugabe has also rushed through constitutional amendments, allowing military officers to be appointed to the election commission and only civil servants there to guard against irregularities.
Inter-party talks held under the mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki struck down laws allowing police officers into polling booths, but Mugabe reinstated them by presidential decree last week.
Opposition spokesmen say they also fear ballot-stuffing, as Mugabe has okayed the printing of surplus ballot papers.