(Last Updated on August 2, 2013 by Editor)
Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai has called Wednesday’s general election a sham, and warned the manner in which it was held could plunge the country into a crisis.
The forewarning has come on foot of President Robert Mugabe’s allies declaring that the veteran leader and his Zanu-PF party had won a landslide victory in a poll held to end the country’s dysfunctional powersharing arrangement.
“It’s a sham election that does not reflect the will of the people,” Mr Tsvangirai said yesterday after his party revealed a long list of alleged irregularities.
“In our view this election is null and void. This election has been a huge farce,” he added.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is not expected to officially announce the polls results until August 5th, but it appears the chances of a smooth transition to the next government are fading fast.
The last political crisis of this magnitude, which occurred around the disputed 2008 election, brought the country to its knees economically as well as politically.
Prior to this election numerous civil society groups and opposition parties maintained that Zanu-PF was gearing up to rig the crucial vote in its favour. This would be done by manipulating the voters’ roll to disenfranchise a large portion of the country’s 6.4 million eligible voters.
Less than 24 hours after what was a largely peaceful vote, local election observers outlined a litany of irregularities they claim are at the heart of Zanu-PF’s attempts to steal the power.
“Up to a million voters were disenfranchised,” said Solomon Zwana the chairman of Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which has 7,000 observers. “The election is seriously compromised.”
The Catholic Church – which had 3,000 people around the country observing the vote – said that while it was premature to call a winner there was a “strong feeling” among Zimbabweans Mr Mugabe would lose.
“If certain people feel their choice was not accepted they may resort to violence. That potential is still there,” a church spokesperson said.
In relation to the voters’ roll, the MDC said there was no proper inspection of the document to verify its authenticity.
In addition, there had been an unauthorised movement of voters from their local wards. This caused about 40 per cent of people to be turned away from polling stations because their names were not on the lists when they arrived to cast their ballots. Thousands of people were not allowed to register to vote in rural areas, and there was widespread manipulation of “voters’ choice” through intimidation by chiefs and the militarisation of the electoral process.
At this stage international observers from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community have yet to respond to the comments made by their local counterparts. But they have acknowledged the vote was peaceful.
Veteran MDC leader Roy Bennett appears unwilling to wait for the official result to be announced before taking action. He has called for a mass campaign of passive resistance to what he called the “theft “of the election. “I’m talking about people completely shutting the country down: don’t pay any bills, don’t attend work, just bring the country to a standstill,” he urged.