Zimbabwe heading for sham polls?

Events obtaining on the ground ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections have taken away hopes of credible polls at a time the country is under the international spotlight, analysts have said.

The run up to the elections, scheduled for July 31, has seen serious inconsistencies emerging and triggering an outcry from contestants as well as civic society organisations.

On July 12, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network published a statement to the effect that there were serious inconsistencies on the voters’ roll.

ZESN noted that there was a serious under-registration of voters especially in the urban wards.

“For instance ZESN has found that there are about 750 000 missing urban voters and at least 400 000 missing young voters from the voters’ roll,” said ZESN in a statement.

Civic society organisations are on record saying the voter registration process was marred by irregularities ranging from a lack of publicity as well as long distances that aspiring voters had to walk. After the completion of the exercise, CSOs raised concern that a lot of aspiring voters had been disenfranchised.

The special voting system which ran from July 14-15 was disturbed by serious logistical problems that saw voting commencing late at some polling stations while at others, thousands of police officers failed to cast their votes on the first day of the exercise.

Zimbabwe has failed to make meaningful progress regarding the recommendations made by the Southern African Development Community Electoral Observation Mission to the Constitutional Referendum held in March.

The SEOM recommended the establishment of a mechanism through which funds for elections could be timely availed. As part of its recommendations, the SEOM called for the update of the voters’ roll in time for elections and encouraged continuous voter education.

MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora told The Zimbabwean that Zimbabwe had “failed” as far as the holding of elections according to international standards is concerned.

He bemoaned the unfair playing field which he said had been as a result of Zanu (PF’s) reluctance to implement critical reforms relating to the media as well as the security sector.

The two MDC formations are of the view that the above reforms would have created an even playing ground ahead of elections. Said Mwonzora: “Zimbabwe has already failed to reach the international standards. The public media space is closed to other political parties. Secondly, the military and the intelligence are involved in the electoral process on the side of Zanu (PF) and this has compromised the quality of the election.

“Violence targeting senior MDC-T officials has flared up and because of these developments; Zimbabwe has failed the test of credible elections.” The Director of the Election Resource Centre, Tawanda Chimhini, said Zimbabwe had failed to live up to international standards with regards the issues of voter education and registration.

“The conduct of free, fair, credible and transparent elections is supposed to be a process and not an event. It’s about Zimbabwe being able to follow international practices. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has fallen short according to international practices.Voter education should have started long back so that you give people enough time to understand the process.

"Also, civic society organisations were not given enough time to be on the ground ahead of the elections. There are also issues around the voters’ roll and it is evident that it’s in a shambles. There is nowhere in the world that a credible election can be conducted on the basis of a voters’ roll we have in Zimbabwe,” said Chimhini.

Political analyst, Rejoice Ngwenya said: “The first test that we have failed is to live up to expectations on the issue of voter registration. Secondly, international observers are only being invited from countries that are friendly to Zanu (PF). So already, without knocking the ball, we have conceded two penalties.

“There is nothing that can be done to make this election free and fair. The outcome of the election can never be perfect because the process has been tainted by Zanu (PF) shenanigans.”

Electoral bodies in Zimbabwe are on record saying the next elections should be observed as widely as possible. However, Zanu (PF) is of the view that Western countries should be barred from observing the next election claiming they have a sinister agenda of deposing the party from power.

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